I love defense. I really do. When I was a kid, I didn't want to be a running back or a receiver or a quarterback. I wanted to be a linebacker. I love watching old videos of Derrick Thomas and Cornelius Bennett. I love watching more recent videos of Demeco Ryans and Rolando McClain. What really makes me happy as a defense aficionado is that we two total monsters at linebacker right now in Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower. Upshaw picked up RBR Player of the Week honors for his performance against Florida and Hightower gets the nod this week for his display against Tennessee.
Much like our first half performance against Vanderbilt, I sat in the stands thinking, "Seriously?" Granted, you can't really complain with your defense holding a team to two field goals, but it was frustrating how long Tennessee's offense kept us on the field on their second drive when they went ahead 3-0. The offense completely sputtered. AJ McCarron threw a howler of an interception on Alabama's opening drive. The offense regrouped well enough to at least answer Tennessee's field goal on the next drive.
Both teams limped along in the second quarter and went into the break tied 6-6. I wasn't panicked and never really got that sense from anybody else, but there was a stunned "What the..." feeling all over Bryant-Denny Stadium at the break. Tennessee fans were certainly elated to still be in the game at the half. It was certainly a tale of two halves though. Alabama's offense came out roaring in the second half and scored on their first dive possessions. The defense really put the clamps on in the second half and allowed no points and no first downs.
Dont'a Hightower had a monster day: 7 tackles, 1 sack, 3 quarterback hurries, 2 pass break ups and a fantastic interceptionreturn. Granted, he caught a ball that was batted by another player, but he had the awareness to do so and the hands to reel it in. He showed a nimbleness on the return that I didn't know he had in him with a couple of good moves and he followed his blockers well returning the interception 30 yards down to the Tennessee 9, which set up an easy score for the offense. He basically impacted seven passing attempts from Tennessee by himself as well as being all over the field making tackles. It was a truly outstanding performance. Congrats to Dont'a Hightower for being RBR's "Player of the Week."