Doug Mathews’ Chalk Talk: Alabama Week

The Crimson Tide come to Neyland for our annual battle in what is still for many the rivalry that matters most in Big Orange Country. This year’s game again finds the visitor in the fight for a national championship and the home team trying to qualify for a bowl game of any type anywhere.

Like last week against Ole Miss it is hard for Chalk Talk to find many if any matchups where the Vols have the advantage.

Ole Miss has the better defense of the two and Alabama the better offense but the separation is not much to write home about. And of course the Rebels did beat the Tide a couple of weeks ago in Oxford.

Ole Miss is an excellent team. They will be a tough win for everyone left on their schedule. As Chalk Talk stated last week going into the game I thought they were the best defensive team in the conference and after the game I saw nothing to change my mind. Hugh Freeze has done a remarkable job in his short tenure in Oxford.

Pretty much the same script we have seen in the three SEC games we have played so far – defense plays very well for three quarters, field position is good, offense can’t move the ball running and makes the decision to attempt drop back passes, QB gets sacked, down and distance becomes our enemy and we make turnovers that take us out of any chance of winning.

These statistics tell the story of the UT/UM game…..Turnovers 4-0 for UM, 0 yards rushing for the Vols, 7 sacks against the Vols, and perhaps the one that gave us little chance: 42 pass plays called against 20 run plays called. There are few teams that can win a SEC game attempting 67% pass plays over run plays and we aren’t one of them.

We must find a way to score touchdowns. Against Georgia, Florida and Ole Miss we have scored one rushing touchdown. Against Florida and Ole Miss we have not scored a touchdown, kicking four field goals and scoring a total of twelve points.

What can we build upon from this game? If Ole Miss (and Miss State) can build a top ten program in a short period of time we certainly can. As Chalk Talk has stated many times recruiting is the only way back and our recruiting is continuing at a very high level.

Bama is coming off a strong win over A&M. They will be very confident and still aware they must continue strong showings for the playoff committee.

The only way I see to make plays against Alabama’s defense is by throwing the ball deep off quick three step action or maximum protection of seven or more blockers. Bo Wallace threw for three touchdowns against the Tide secondary and we will have opportunities if we choose to take them.

Everyone who has held Bama’s offense in check has double covered #9 Cooper. Those who didn’t gave up big plays. The key is how to double Cooper and also defend their running game. This will be our biggest challenge defensively of the season.

Due to the above points it is imperative we keep good field position the WHOLE game. We are playing good team defense and if we will not give Alabama a short field we can stay in the game. Rarely do I say we cannot afford ANY turnovers but this game is one of those times. We must get points when we are in the scoring zone and can’t turn the ball over in our end of the field.

History tells us that if you want to be remembered in Tennessee football lore, it would be a good idea to make plays in this game. From Horton in the 40’s to Johnnie Jones and Dale Jones, Peyton Manning to Joey Kent, Jay Graham just to mention a few, the Alabama game has produced some on the greatest plays in Volunteer history. You might even get on the cover of Sports Illustrated like Al Dorsey. I had the pleasure to coach in ten of these games and most Volunteer players I know will talk about their games against Alabama when they get together.