You are what the scoreboard says you are – or maybe not

Marvin Westwestwords

As a great philosopher (maybe Vince Lombardi, not Butch Jones) once said, numbers are difficult to debate. You are what the scoreboard says you are.

OK, Alabama won in a romp, a fourth-round knockout, 15 victories in a row in what was once a great rivalry with Tennessee. With no health concerns, Tide showoffs fired up their 50-cent cigars.

The Vols provided an assortment of assists – 12 infractions, a miscommunication interception that led to an easy touchdown, a much-too-brave “go-for-it” on fourth and six at the UT 29.

If we stay with the facts, Tennessee was almost half as good as Alabama – in points but not in some other typical measurements, rushing yards or first downs or fourth-quarter production.

Tennessee couldn’t run the football (64 net yards). It lost at the line of scrimmage. It had 10 first downs to the winner’s 33. It ran out of gas and allowed the final 14 minutes to turn into three touchdowns and a rout.

The Vols arrived in T-town physically disadvantaged but mentally ready for a fight. For more than a little while, the rest of us were allowed to think, to hope, to imagine that the impossible might be possible.

It wasn’t. Tennessee gave effort. It lacked execution. The Tide has more talent.

Gimpy or not, the Vols have heart. Hendon Hooker insisted on playing despite a bruised knee. Cooper Mays lined up at center but wasn’t outstanding. Running backs Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small did what they could with limitations. Several young people filled vacancies on defense. Freshman De’Shawn Rucker blocked a punt.

Three quarters and a fraction were very interesting. Nick Saban got all worked up and 100 per cent irritated. He waved his arms, yelled at assistants and three times assembled defensive backs to repeat the concept of “don’t get beat deep.”

Alabama got beat deep. Hooker threw touchdowns passes of 57 to JaVonte Payton and 70 to Cedric Tillman. Another Hooker-to-Tillman gained 39.

A minute or so into the fourth quarter the game was still a game.

Tide quarterback Bryce Young, thought to be a reluctant runner, scrambled up the middle from the 6. He lost his grip on the ball before it reached the goal but got a favorable bounce and recovered in the end zone. Touchdown Alabama!

One second later, a mad scramble ensued. The call withstood review. Tennessee trailed 31-17. A few fans thought the hay was in the barn and headed home.

All Vols stayed. Twenty-one seconds later, Hooker launched a bomb to Tillman down the sideline. A Tide defensive back was eventually located in the lost-and-found department. The difference was again one touchdown.

That was the end of happy time. Tennessee’s defense squeezed Alabama into third-and-15 but sprinter Jameson Williams got behind the UT secondary and caught a long ball. On the next play, Brian Robinson rumbled in for his third touchdown. He is all man.

Hooker lost his second interception of the season. Payton turned right. Hooker threw left, into the open arms of Jalyn Armour-Davis, just standing there. Nothing like that had ever happened to him. He recovered from the shock, ran 47 yards in the correct direction and set up another touchdown.

Heupel cost one. The coach, at least as courageous as his team, thought the Vols could convert fourth-and-long deep in their territory. The Tide rejected that idea. Hooker gained one instead of seven. Alabama cashed in the generous gift of field position and enriched those who gave 25.5 points to bet on the Tide.

Other developments and conclusions:

Alabama is far from flawless. It had a fair share of stumbles and blunders. It deserves consideration for the national playoff. I believe it is better than Cincinnati. I can’t prove it but I believe Tennessee is considerably better than the Alabama score. Pitt and Ole Miss recent successes are influencing that opinion.

Tennessee’s most dependable defensive back, Theo Jackson, is again injured. Cade Mays didn’t make the trip. Henry To’o To’o did not dominate for Alabama. The famous ex-Vol had two tackles and three assists. Jeremy Banks, Tennessee’s best linebacker if you don’t count wild and crazy personal fouls, was in on 12 hits.

The open date may be a saving grace. Some injuries will heal. Weary defensive linemen will get richly deserved rest. Coaches can resume catch-up in recruiting races and take a sneak peek at Kentucky.

That next game, in Lexington, is pivotal. The Wildcats will be favored. They may be superior. To win, Tennessee needs to get smarter in a hurry and avoid self-destruction.

Did anybody say “Go Vols!”

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is

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