Alabama vs. Tennessee score, takeaways: No. 4 Tide start slow but blow out Vols in fourth quarter

A week after thrashing Mississippi State on the road by 40 points, No. 4 Alabama found itself in a fight at home Saturday night against Tennessee for three quarters. Ultimately, the Crimson Tide pulled away late for a 52-24 victory. The game was tight into the fourth quarter until Jaylin Armour-Davis intercepted a pass from Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker with 11:02 remaining and ran it back 47 yards to set up an Alabama touchdown.

Armour-Davis' interception, which helped Alabama go ahead 45-24, constituted the Crimson Tide's biggest defensive highlight, and QB Bryce Young provided plenty of offensive highlights. The redshirt freshman completed 31 of 43 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Young also ran for two scores as the Tide excelled on third downs by converting 14 of 19 to extend drives and slowly break the will of a Tennessee defense that eventually ceded 574 total yards. Running back Brian Robinson added 107 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. 

The victory improves Alabama coach Nick Saban to 15-0 against Tennessee since he began coaching the Crimson Tide in 2007, and it makes Josh Heupel the sixth Tennessee coach to lose to Saban in the rivalry. It also keeps Alabama firmly in the driver's seat for the SEC West title and in the College Football Playoff conversation as it gears up for the stretch run of the schedule. After getting a bye next week, the Tide have home games against LSU, New Mexico State and Arkansas before closing with a road game at Auburn.

Bryce Young does have wheels

Young has been a hesitant runner early in his tenure at Alabama, preferring instead to let his passing ability carry him into the Heisman Trophy conversation. But with his arm talent well-established, Young has started flashing his dual-threat prowess successfully the past two weeks. Both of his touchdown runs came on third-down scrambles Saturday as Young showed his comfort with improvising on broken plays.

He also converted two more third downs with his legs, both of which led to Alabama scores shortly thereafter. Young's 42 yards on the ground won't jump off the box score, but a week after he began stretching the Mississippi State defense with his legs, Young took that element of his game to a new level on Saturday.

Success on third down is key 

Young also used his arm to help Alabama convert on several third down plays as the Tide slowly wore down a Tennessee defense that played well at times before breaking in key moments. One key example of Alabama's third-down prowess came early in the fourth quarter after Tennessee closed the gap to 31-24. The Volunteers stuffed Robinson on consecutive runs to set up a third-and-15. It looked for a moment as if the Volunteers might get the football back with a chance to tie after their offense had just connected on a 70-yard touchdown from Hooker to Cedric Tillman. But then, as he did so often Saturday, Young delivered.

His 65-yard strike to Jameson Williams moved the chains and set up a Robinson touchdown run on the following play. The score extended Alabama's lead back to 14 and flipped the momentum back to the Tide. Alabama ranked third nationally in third down conversion percentage at 55% entering the game. After converting 73.7% attempts against the Volunteers, that figure will only go up.

Special teams blunders

It wasn't all roses for Alabama, though. Saban will have plenty to critique during the bye week, and special teams play will be at the top of the list. Tennessee took a 14-7 lead in the first quarter after a roughing the punter penalty on Alabama's Chris Braswell allowed the Volunteers to retain possession. Hooker found WR JaVonta Payton for a 57-yard touchdown strike two plays later.

Alabama dealt with its second massive special teams miscue of the game in the third quarter, when James Burnip had a punt blocked to set Tennessee up in the red zone. The Volunteers failed to move the ball and settled for a field goal. But 10 of Tennessee's 24 points could be directly traced to special teams errors, which is uncharacteristic for Alabama.

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BAMA -25, O/U 68

Season Leaders

passing
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H. Hooker 2567 YD, 26 TDS, 3 INTS
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H. Hooker 2567 YD, 26 TDS, 3 INTS
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B. Young 4322 YD, 43 TDS, 4 INTS
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B. Young 4322 YD, 43 TDS, 4 INTS
rushing
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J. Small 114 ATT, 612 YD, 8 TDS
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J. Small 114 ATT, 612 YD, 8 TDS
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B. Robinson Jr. 223 ATT, 1071 YD, 14 TDS
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B. Robinson Jr. 223 ATT, 1071 YD, 14 TDS
receiving
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C. Tillman 57 REC, 931 YD, 9 TDS
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C. Tillman 57 REC, 931 YD, 9 TDS
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J. Williams 68 REC, 1445 YD, 15 TDS
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J. Williams 68 REC, 1445 YD, 15 TDS
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For the bettors

Those who had Alabama with some varation of -24-27.5, you can breathe easy -- or at least try and breathe through the victory cigar haze -- as the Crimson Tide have stretched this one into a cover for the moment. We'll see if Tennessee has anything left in the tank. But if this final holds, the home fans who dabble in sports wagering will likely be pleased.

October 24, 2021, 2:31 AM
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@AlabamaFTBL via Twitter
October 24, 2021, 2:31 AM
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Vols go four-and-out

Will Anderson only has credit for 0.5 sacks tonight, but he's tackled Hendon Hooker just past the line of scrimmage on several occasions. The latest occasion is a fourth-and-6, and it results in a turnover on downs. That will really seal it as Alabama takes over in Tennessee territory midway through the fourth quarter.

October 24, 2021, 2:25 AM
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Lights out

Get your cigar cutters ready, Tuscaloosa, because Alabama is on the cusp of closing this one out. Brian Robinson scores his htird rushing touchdown of the game following the big INT from Armour-Davis, and the Crimson Tide are up 45-24. Give Tennessee credit, because the Volunteers are out-manned in this matchup but they've hung tough.

October 24, 2021, 2:18 AM
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Critical turnover

Well, Tennessee just made its first catastrophic error of the game, and it might just do it for this one. Hendon Hooker is intercepted by Jalyn Armour-Davis, who returns it 40+ yards to set Alabama up in the red zone. Crimson Tide should take a three-possession lead here.

October 24, 2021, 2:14 AM
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@AlabamaFTBL via Twitter
October 24, 2021, 2:06 AM
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Splash

Facing a third-and-15, Young finds Jameson Williams for 65 yards, and it's followed up with a 15-yard Brian Robinson Jr. TD run. That went from looking like a probable punt to being an Alabama score in the span of what felt like 0.4 seconds. Huge answer for the Crimson Tide to surge back ahead 38-24 with 12:42 left. Alabama has been lethal on third downs tonight, now 12-of-17.

October 24, 2021, 2:05 AM
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Tennessee strikes back

That's Tennessee's first touchdown since the first quarter. And it comes when it was desparately needed, as Hendon Hooker finds Cedric Tillman for 70 yards down the right sideline. That's Tillman's second long TD reception of the game, and we've got a ballgame. Wouldn't want to be in the DBs room with Nick Saban next week. Got a ballgame.

October 24, 2021, 1:57 AM
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@Vol_Football via Twitter
October 24, 2021, 1:57 AM
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Alabama scores

Traeshon Holden hauls in a 26-yarder shortly after a big third down pass from Young to Jameson Williams kept the drive alive, and Alabama scores on the first play of the fourth quarter as Bryce Young runs it in for the second time. This one from six yards out. He's been so good with his legs tonight and obviously took some cues from how Matt Corral shredded Tennessee on the ground. Play went under review, because it looked like Bryce may have fumbled. But it stands, as it looks like he also landed on the football in the end zone. Nevertheless, Josh Heupel is steamed about something.

October 24, 2021, 1:48 AM
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Questionable punt

Wow, so Tennessee lines up to go for it on fourth-and 1+ near midfield, but the Vols take the delay of game and punt it away. That's beta move when you're competing with the No. 4 team on the road. But the Vols haven't had much luck when needing one yard tonight. Guess they were banking on another Alabama special teams error. Hendon Hooker gave the Vols a first down with a gusty run on that series, but it's all for naught. 

October 24, 2021, 1:38 AM
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Alabama drives for FG

A 28-yard completion from Young to John Metchie III followed by a 16-yard Young scramble on a third down had the Crimson Tide in business. But they settle for a 45-yard field goal by Will Reichard to go back up 24-17. Young's legs have been so important tonight. It's an element of his game he's been hesitant to show this season. But man, he's good when he takes off. Just seems like the awareness level of when to run is really high tonight.

October 24, 2021, 1:28 AM
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ANOTHER special teams miscue

Wow, Tennessee will take over at the Alabama 16 after a blocked punt by De'Shawn Rucker. Another crippling special teams error for the Crimson Tide giving the Vols life. The Alabama defense stands, tough however. So Chase McGrath hits a 32-yarder. Nothing doing for either offense early in the second half.

October 24, 2021, 1:16 AM
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