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Light 'em up: Skill players step up in Alabama's victory

Tyler Waldrep

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By Tyler Waldrep | Assistant Sports Editor

Jake Coker was waiting on the play clock. 

Tennessee had taken just over a minute to drive the length of the field and take a one point fourth quarter lead. The Alabama offense didn’t have much to say when they walked out on the field with less than six minutes left in the game.

Coker’s team knew what had to be done, and they had what Coker described as “unspoken confidence.” They also had running back Derrick Henry. 

With the game on the line Coker gave Henry the ball for the third consecutive time and Henry did what he does best: he scored. 

“[That’s] honestly the same old Derrick Henry,” Coker said. “I mean he doesn’t change much when you give him the ball, you know he’s going to fight his heart out to get a first down [or] score a touchdown.”

Henry’s 14-yard touchdown was his second of the day. It also won the game. Tennessee was unable to hold onto the football on its ensuing drive, and Alabama beat the Volunteers 19-14. 

Henry finished the day with 28 carries and 143 yards, most of which came after the half. Center Ryan Kelly said Alabama came out of the locker room with a plan to feed Henry in the second half. 

“That’s always a staple of our offense is how we run the ball,” Kelly said. “Especially how we ran the ball in the first quarter last week against A&M, we knew that as long as we do what we do they couldn’t stop us.” 

After only receiving nine carries in the first half, Henry made good use of the four consecutive carries he got to start the third quarter. A few plays later Alabama took sole possession of the lead after Adam Griffith connected on a 19-yard field goal.

Kelly would not have been able to watch Henry run into the endzone virtually, if not literally untouched, if not for a few big plays made by the receiving corps. 

“I think the third down conversions especially the two fade routes [were huge],” coach Nick Saban said. “Really good catches, really good throws, [and then] were able to run the ball and we ran the catch sweep counter on the touchdown run which was a great misdirection.”

Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart each hauled in 15- and 29-yard receptions respectively to get Alabama within striking distance. Stewart finished the day with six receptions for a career high 114 yards. 

“[Stewart’s] had a lot of opportunities to make plays,” Saban said. “He’s had three of four big plays like that were just misses and today he made a great catch and it couldn’t have came at a better time.”

With the win Alabama extended its winning streak over the Volunteers to nine games. Kelly said it was one of the more memorable games of his career.

“It was incredible,” Kelly said. “It’s up there with the LSU one from last year. The ones that really test this team and we overcame a lot of adversity tonight.”

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Light 'em up: Skill players step up in Alabama's victory