KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones likes to say that football is a game of individual matchups, but it was going to take more than just Derek Barnett winning his battles for Tennessee to be competitive with Alabama.
The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) rolled to a 49-10 win over the No. 9-ranked Vols (5-2, 2-2) Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.
It was the most lopsided victory margin by either team in the series since 1906 — a 51-0 Alabama win — and if not for Barnett, it could have been worse.
Barnett delivered a fumble-inducing shot on Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts early in the second quarter, setting up the Vols only touchdown of the game.
Later in the second quarter, with the Tide driving and working in the UT red zone, Shy Tuttle deflected a Hurts pass and Barnett alertly came down with the interception.
As far as Tennessee highlights went, that was pretty much it on the defensive side of the ball.
Coach Butch Jones sang Barnett’s praises after the game.
“Warrior — there isn’t anybody in our football program who has more toughness than him,” Jones said. “He takes great pride in his performance, the way he prepares week-in and week-out, not just on the field, but his video study.”
Barnett said he was anxious to get in the film room on Sunday to review exactly what happened, and why.
“We have a 24-hour rule, but we’ll probably spend more time on this game since we have a bye week, and we could see them again,” Barnett said. “Season 2 starts after this bye week.”
As difficult of a loss as it was, Tennessee has a week off to heal before a winnable stretch of games to finish out the season:
• Oct. 29 at South Carolina
• Nov. 5 vs. Tennessee Tech
• Nov. 12 vs. Kentucky
• Nov. 19 vs. Missouri
• at Vanderbilt
The Vols need Florida to lose one of its remaining SEC games — vs. Georgia (Jacksonville), at Arkansas, vs. South Carolina and at LSU — to get back in control of their own destiny.
Barnett made it clear he doesn’t plan on letting another team get the best of Tennessee.
“We can’t let one game define our season,” said Barnett, who had three solo tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble in the loss to the Crimson Tide. “We’ve got some guys down, but that’s not excuse. The next man up has to be ready to play.”
Barnett moved into sole possession of third place on Tennessee’s all-time sacks list, now with 26 in his career.
Here’s the list:
Reggie White, 32.0
Leonard Little, 28.0
Jonathan Brown, 25.0
Todd Kelly Sr., 22.5
Parys Haralson, 21.0
John Henderson, 20.5
James Wilson, 20.5