Vandy didn’t want Bama, not really. Sure, the Commodores were 3-0 and coming off a win over a ranked Kansas State team; but there weren’t many who thought Vanderbilt would beat Alabama. Some did expect a close game, though, especially against Vandy’s top ranked defense.
That wasn’t the case.
Alabama’s offense did virtually whatever it wanted against the Vanderbilt defense. After a punt on its opening drive, the Crimson Tide offense scored a touchdown on four straight series. Bama racked up 496 yards on the ground alone (501 when you discount the three kneel downs at the end). The running backs were going off, and Brian Daboll kept giving them da ball (sorry, I had to). They ran the ball 52 times for 422 yards (8.12 yards/carry).
2nd and 4: Alabama has an interesting formation with 11 personnel. Jalen Hurts (#2) is in shotgun with Damien Harris (#34) on his right hip. They have trips right with all three receivers in a bunch beyond the far hashmark. Hale Hentges (#84) is on the left of the line with his hand in the dirt.
It’s a counter. Harris steps to his left to get the handoff, but he cuts back to the right. Jonah Williams (#73) pulls to the right and picks up the linebacker. Bradley Bozeman (#75) gets to the second level and blocks another linebacker. Harris sees the lane that’s opened up in the middle of the field, and he cuts that way. Harris gets hit at the 42 yard line; but he does an excellent job of keeping his feet churning and makes it down to the 36 yard line.
1st and 10: Hurts is in the pistol with Bo Scarbrough (#9) behind him. Cam Sims (#17) and Robert Foster (#1) are in tight on the left, Irv Smith (#82) is on the right side of the line, and Calvin Ridley (#3) is wide right. Sims motions to the right to fake the jet sweep, but it’s an outside zone to the left. Just the threat of the jet sweep gets two flowing that direction. This leaves six total blockers to just five defenders on the side of the field Scarbrough is headed.
Bozeman and Ross Pierschbacher (#71) double team the defensive tackle as Jonah Williams walls his man out, giving Scarbrough a hole. He shoots through it and tries to slip past an arm tackle. The defender did just enough to trip him up a bit, and he hops into the air. He lands on one leg, hops forward again, and lands. Right as he lands, a defensive back goes low and launches a shoulder into Scarbrough, who probably laughed at the attempted tackle. Honestly, this probably just helps Scarbrough recover his balance. He stands up and gains another 7 or 8 yards.
2nd and 1: Alabama hurries to get set after a gain of 9 yards. Hurts is in the gun with Damien Harris to his left. Pierschbacher pulls to the right, and Harris runs right behind Matt Womack (#77) as he sees the hole collapsing. He gets bottled up, but he bounces it left. One of the Vandy safeties had come down too far and isn’t able to reverse course after he cut it around the line. A cornerback dives after Harris to no avail. Another corner dives; and Harris runs out of that tackle, too. He’s gone, and no one is catching him from behind.
1st and 10: Alabama’s in the pistol with 11 personnel. It’s a simple outside run for Damien Harris. Bozeman, Pierschbacher, and Williams all make crucial blocks to set this up. Williams chips the defensive end for a half a second while Pierschbacher engages. He then turns, lowers his shoulders, and drives the weakside linebacker toward the sideline. Pierschbacher handles the end, preventing him from shedding the block. Meanwhile, Bozeman gets past the defensive tackle and to the second level where he cuts the middle linebacker and takes him out the play. Harris cuts it upfield in between Pierschbacher and Williams, and there’s nobody that can get to him until he’s 8 yards past the line. He caps it off with a nice spin move past the strongside linebacker for an extra 4 yards and the first down.
1st and 10: Bama brings the 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends) for the opening play of the second half. Damien Harris is the running back. Hentges and Smith are both on the right. Robert Foster is the receiver on the left with Ridley off to the right. Foster goes in motion, and they fake it to him. Once again, this gets two defenders moving in the opposite direction the play will go; and it freezes the middle linebacker.
Williams gets his right arm in the defender’s chest, and he moves his man. The cornerback could still make a play, though. Unfortunately for Commodores, he runs right to Williams, who shoves the first defender back and lowers his shoulder into the corner, blocking two players. Harris, for his part, shows his vision, cutting upfield to hit the now-open hole. He cuts back towards the middle right by the poor safety. It’s a 12 yard gain for the first.
2nd and 8: Even the back-ups are mauling. Tua Tagovailoa (#13) is in the pistol with Najee Harris (#22) behind him. The left side of the line takes care of business here. Scott Lashley (#76), the left tackle, easily walls out the outside linebacker. J.C. Hassenauer (#63), the left guard, and Brandon Kennedy (#56), the center, double team the defensive lineman. Hassenauer holds long enough for Kennedy to get square before moving on to the linebacker. Hassenauer gets low but just sort of lunges at the defender. While he’s able to get free of Hassenauer, it has moved him several yards back. The poor defender gets in Harris’s path, but Harris doesn’t care about that minor detail. He leaps up and over the Commodore, who does salvage something out of it by grabbing and holding one of Harris’s winged feet.
Let’s have one more look.
There we go.
1st and 10: Boy, do we have a lot of true freshman here; and there’s still over 13 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Tagovailoa’s in at quarterback still, and Brian Robinson (#24) is the tailback. Tight ends Kedrick James (#44) and Major Tennison (#88) are on the right side of the line next to Jedrick Wills (#74), the right tackle.
Robinson gets the handoff going to the right. James does a nice job of moving the linebacker initially; but #11 gets free, forcing Robinson to cut it upfield. Tennison has neutralized his man, and Josh Casher #67 is holding his block well. Hassenauer displayed good speed getting up to the second level from the left guard spot, but he almost overshot the linebacker. Still, he does his job. Wills struggles with his, however; and his defender sheds the block and almost makes a play on Robinson, who powers through the tackle. He’s quick enough to reach the endzone before the corner is able to make it over.