KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It was a perfect pass to Ronnie Harrison, but the Alabama defensive back was by no means Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ intended target.
As Harrison ran across the middle of the field, he easily snatched the ball and ran it back 58 yards to score, advancing Alabama to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, well before No. 1 Alabama crushed No. 9 Tennessee, 49-10, at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
“When they were aligned like that, we knew what was going to happen, so we just played it the right way,” Harrison said. “I made a play on the ball. It felt like he threw it straight to me.”
The interception-turned-touchdown was not only Harrison’s second of the season, but also the Crimson Tide’s eighth defensive touchdown overall, a statistic that leads the nation.
It didn’t stop there either.
In the first play of the fourth quarter, defensive back Eddie Jackson returned a punt 79 yards to score the team’s second non-offense touchdown of the game, its 11th on the season.
“We call it the Six Club,” Jackson said. “A guy scores a touchdown, we just go like, ‘Welcome to the Six Club.’ That just keeps guys motivated and keeps them pushing.”
Jackson has been a member of the 2016 edition of the Six Club since Alabama’s second game of the season against Western Kentucky. The 6-foot, 194-pound turnover guru has now scored three touchdowns.
There are actually seven different Alabama defensive starters who have scored the eight touchdowns. It has gotten to a point where every defensive group (defensive linemen, defensive backs and linebackers) has made it into the end zone.
“It’s a point of emphasis,” Saban said, “And I think when players start to get [touchdowns], they always think, ‘I’m going to get me one.’”
It’s contagious. The Alabama defensive monsters always want to score while on the field. It creates a large momentum shift for the team.
Having scored at least one non-offensive touchdown in the past nine games, dating back to last season, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen believe it’s now an expectation for each game. The team practices that way.
“It’s come up to the point where we’re demanding it from each other that we get the ball and we force turnovers,” Allen said, “And when we do force turnovers, we capitalize on it.”
Allen finished out Saturday night with four total tackles and a sack for a loss of 10 yards.
Along with his highlighted interception return, Harrison led the Crimson Tide with seven total tackles and two pass break-ups. Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton and defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick fell in line with six total tackles each.
The Crimson Tide defense recorded 10 tackles for a loss of 56 yards, three of which were sacks for a loss of 37 yards. Alabama also totaled six pass break-ups, as Dobbs completed 16 of 27 passes for 92 yards and the lone interception.
Over the course of 63 plays, the Volunteers were limited to just 32 rushing yards and 131 passing yards. The only time they scored was during the second quarter off of running back Alvin Kamara’s 7-yard touchdown run. Other than that, Tennessee was only able to squeak out a 37-yard field goal, and it was unable to cash in on three other red-zone appearances.
“The defense played outstanding,” Saban said.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports