KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — This spring, Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop confidently said, “Nobody will run on the ‘Orange Swarm.’ ”
Well … perhaps not a fully-fielded “Orange Swarm.”
For the third consecutive week, Tennessee’s depleted defense was gashed on the ground, as the No. 9 Volunteers surrendered 438 rushing yards to No. 1 Alabama in Saturday’s 49-10 blowout loss.
“It’s a pretty simple game. It’s a line of scrimmage game,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “When you give up 438 yards rushing, and offensively have 32 yards rushing, you’re not even giving yourself an opportunity to be in the game.”
The Crimson Tide had six rushing plays of more than 20 yards, including LaDarius Stewart’s 29-yard reverse touchdown, Jalen Hurts’ 45-yard score and Bo Scarbrough’s 85-yard touchdown run. According to ESPN Stats Inc., Tennessee surrendered 14 rushes where contact wasn’t made until 10 yards downfield — the most in a game by any Power 5 team in five years.
Hurts, a freshman quarterback, rumbled for 132 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground, schooling Tennessee on designed keepers and scramble plays.
With no Darrin Kirkland, Jalen Reeves-Maybin or a pair of defensive tackles, the Volunteers’ front seven was no match for Alabama’s imposing offensive line. The Tide averaged close to a first down (8.9 yards per carry) on every rush.
“They kept burning us with the quarterback run,” All-American defensive end Derek Barnett said. “That’s the play that was getting us.”
Added nickel-back Rashaan Gaulden: “He’s a dynamic quarterback with his speed and being able to run and being able to pass. The hardest quarterback to face is a dual-threat quarterback in my opinion. He exploited us today in being able to get around the edge and deliver on long balls when needed. What hurt us the most was him being able to get around the edge and provide explosive plays for his team.”
Three weeks ago, Georgia provided a template for teams to run on Tennessee’s banged up defense. Without their top linebackers, the Volunteers are being spread out, forced to cover the entire field against misdirection plays and trap runs.
In the back-to-back losses, Tennessee has surrendered a 791 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground.
“We had way too many missed tackles today,” Jones said. “I give them credit. They have a very good offensive line. I thought (Hurts) showed some things, but we pride ourselves in stopping the run. That was unacceptable.”