KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Even in defeat, Josh Dobbs continued to lead on Saturday, the only offensive player to put himself front and center before the media to take accountability and answer questions about the 49-10 loss to No. 1 Alabama.
“We have to stay together, (and) we can’t let this game divide us,” Dobbs said, aware of the effect that sort of blowout defeat can have in the locker room. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to get back at it Monday and keep going.”
Dobbs has been the catalyst on offense for No. 18-ranked Tennessee (5-2, 2-2 SEC) all season, making play after play through six games to keep the Vols’ otherwise-sputtering offense headed in the right direction.
Dobbs, himself, was no match for No. 1-ranked Alabama and its dominant front seven. He was 16-of-27 passing for 92 yards and his screen pass attempt for Jalen Hurd was intercepted and returned for a touchdown when Alabama decked Hurd and crashed through the wall of blockers being set up.
The Tide’s defensive line manhandled Tennessee’s offensive line, throwing aside Vols blockers throughout the day, knocking offensive tackles Brent Kendrick and Chance Hall out of the game in the process.
There was simply nowhere for Dobbs to run, as Tennessee’s overmatched and out-talented line collapsed from the left and right simultaneously, the middle getting pushed back most every play.
“They just have big two-gap (defensive line) players and we weren’t getting push up front, obviously, and it affected the run game,” said Dobbs, part of Tennessee’s humbling 32-carry, 32-yard rush effort. “We have to go back to focusing on fundamentals, details and execution.”
Coach Butch Jones likely will be focused on the injury report he gets from the training room.
The Vols were missing four of five starters on the offensive line by the end of Saturday’s loss, as center Dylan Wiesman and left guard Jashon Robertson did not play.
Dobbs said Tennessee has indeed had a tough stretch of games with Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama in succession, but the Vols can’t use that as an excuse.
“Obviously the grind has affected us injury-wise, with different guys having to step up and play,” Dobbs said. “But intensity-wise the grind hasn’t affected us. Each one of these four games are reasons you come to Tennessee, there’s no reason for it to deter you.
“We can’t really worry about (injuries), because it’s not something we can control. We have to have a next man up mentality, and if you are in the game, you are expected to be productive.”
Dobbs made it clear that Tennessee will have laser focus on each game moving forward after the bye week, with most of the Vols players experienced enough to know better than to overlook any opponent.
“Every time you step on the field you’re playing for something,” Dobbs said, “and we know the importance of each game.”