KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On a weekly basis, Alabama grinds opponents into a woodchipper, hauling the remnants into the end zone for six points.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide have scored nine non-offensive touchdowns over the first six weeks of the season. They’ve registered a defensive or special teams score in eight-straight games dating back to last year.
They don’t just force takeaways. They immediately capitalize turnovers into touchdowns.
“They’re opportunistic,” former Alabama running back Alvin Kamara said.
“They’re looking to make a play on every play. They’ll be trying to put a hand on [quarterback Josh] Dobbs, trying to put a hand on the ball carrier every chance they get.”
Volunteers coach Butch Jones delivered his thoughts even more succinctly, saying, “This football team attacks the football. They hunt the football. Not just on defense but on special teams as well.”
The Tide, loaded with 5-star ball-hawks up and down the defense, rank third nationally in sacks and tied for third in the SEC in takeaways (13). They’ve tallied touchdowns on a 100-yard interception, a 75-yard fumble recovery and a 85-yard punt return.
It’s a scary proposition for a Tennessee team coming off a folly-filled performance in the 45-38 loss at Texas A&M last week.
The Vols have been playing with fire all season, finally getting burned last week with a school-record 7 turnovers despite gaining nearly 700 yards against the Aggies.
“We cannot turn the football over,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said.
“We had a lot of yards last week, but it doesn’t matter. Take those and throw them out because when you don’t win, nothing matters. What matters is what we did wrong. We’ve got to get our turnovers corrected.”
Tennessee leads the county with 21 fumbles, losing eight. Dobbs has thrown 8 interceptions in six games, as well. The 16 giveaways rank No. 124 nationally. Last year, the Volunteers had 12 turnovers all season.
“This defense is very disruptive,” said DeBord about Alabama.
“They do a great job on special teams, defense of stripping the ball, ripping the ball out. They do that on just about every tackle. They want to rip the ball out. We’ve put a great emphasis on that. We cannot turn the football over.”