TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Tennessee’s offense continued to struggle Saturday afternoon, proving no challenge for No. 1-ranked Alabama.
The Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 SEC) scored a 45-7 victory over the Vols, out-gaining Tennessee 604 yards to 108 yards in winning for an 11th-straight time in the “Third Saturday of October” rivalry.
Tennessee’s offense hasn’t scored a touchdown since the second quarter of its 17-13 win over UMass on Sept. 23, a string of 14 quarters.
The Vols (3-4, 0-4) got their touchdown on linebacker Daniel Bituli’s 97-yard interception return in the third quarter, and the offense only drove into Alabama territory twice.
Tennessee’s defense was on the field for 86 plays, while the Vols’ offense ran only 46 plays and managed but 7 first downs.
Tennessee’s only red zone possession came compliments of a Rashaan Gaulden fumble recovery at the Tide 20 after D.J. Henderson stripped Alabama punt returner Tyrell Shaver.
The Vols looked to have scored on a 3-yard run by John Kelly, but officials reviewed the play and ruled Kelly down at the 1. A motion penalty backed up Tennessee to the 6, and two plays later Jarrett Guarantano was intercepted on fourth down.
Guarantano finished 9-of-16 passing for 44 yards and the interception, and he was credited with 11 rushers for minus-12 yards, including two sacks.
The Vols’ longest pass play went for 12 yards to tight end Ethan Wolf in the first quarter.
• Linebacker Daniel Bituli provided the defensive highlight with a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
• Nickleback Rashaan Gaulden had a pass break-up in the end zone and a key fumble recovery at the Alabama 20-yard line
• Freshman cornerback Shawn Shamburger made 12 tackles, including a sack, in his first career start in place of injured senior Justin Martin.
• Tailback John Kelly ran hard, but there wasn’t much daylight, as he finished with 12 carries for 65 yards and 2 catches for 5 yards.
• Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano didn’t have good statistics, and his red zone interception was no thing of beauty, but he’s showing his teammates true grit and earning leadership points along the way.
• Defensive end Jonathan Kongbo had two of the costliest penalties of the season, both personal foul hands-to-face. Both led to TDs, one negating a touchdown.
• Junior safety Micah Abernathy missed an open-field tackle on Tide QB Too Tagovailoa’s 23-yard TD run and took a bad angle on Henry Ruggs lll 60-yard TD reception.
• Tennessee’s offensive line started its fifth different combination in seven games, and the results against the Tide’s No. 1-ranked run defense were not up to par.
• The Vols receiving corps struggled to get open against Alabama’s press coverage, combining for 4 catches for 20 yards, with Marquez Callaway the leading WR — 3 catches, 14 yards.