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Alabama survives Tennessee, improves to 7-0

Butch Dill - USA TODAY Sports

It was not pretty, but Alabama improves to 7-0. 

Despite unveiling its new lighting feature, the Crimson Tide did not have the performance it wanted inside Bryant-Denny Stadium versus Tennessee. In the latest edition of the “Third Saturday in October” rivalry, there were more flags on the field than in a NASCAR race. 

Both teams combined had 18 penalties for 161 yards, with Alabama being responsible for seven – netting 78 yards.

Nick Saban will address the issue in his post-game presser, but the main concern is the health of Tua Tagovailoa. Regardless of a 35-13 win, the Heisman leader left the game prior to halftime with ankle injury. No one knows the extent of the issue; however, Alabama will encounter a lot of issues without him. Before he exited, the junior quarterback completed 11 of 12 pass attempts for 155 yards with one interception. His second pick of the season came in the first quarter, as he pressed too hard in forcing a pass in the end zone. 

RELATED: Tennessee keeping it close, despite UA’s new lighting feature

Mac Jones replaced him in the second half, but it was the performance of Najee Harris that pushed the Tide to victory. He collected his third 100-yard outing, totaling 105 yards rushing with two touchdowns on 21 carries. Offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian went exclusively to Harris in the second half. The junior also brought in four passes for 48 yards out the backfield. 

Henry Ruggs III led the team in receiving with four catches for 72 yards. 

He caught three passes for 41 yards, but Jerry Jeudy’s touchdown drought has eclipsed three matchups. Miller Forristall had the lone score of the game for the Tide’s receiving unit. 

The junior at tight end caught a 6-yard score from Slade Bolden. 

Tennessee totaled 121 yards rushing, but it 34 carries to do it. 

In terms of Alabama’s defense, Christian Harris led the team in tackles (eight). 

The tandem of Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis combined for 14 tackles (seven each), 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two quarterback hurries. Xavier McKinney recorded six stops from his safety position and Shane Lee collected six tackles – including one for loss, one sack and a forced fumble. Both Trevon Diggs and Jared Mayden collected huge turnovers. 

Mayden tallied his second pick of the year and as for Diggs, he ignited the fans with a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown. The play capped off a goal line stand for the Tide against the Volunteers and it helped put the game out of reach. In his efforts, the senior cornerback provided Alabama with its third non-offensive score of the season. Nick Saban even found his punter for the future, as Ty Perine (walk-on) averaged 46.5 yards per attempt on two punts. His longest punt traveled 51 yards and the Prattville (Ala.) native flew down the field to make the tackle. 

It was a tough win for the Tide, but there is still much work to do. 

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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