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VOL. 39 | NO. 43 | Friday, October 23, 2015

Reveiz know what Vols need to snap streak against Alabama

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Tennessee place-kicker Fuad Reveiz was anxious and nervous much of the week leading up the Vols’ game against Alabama on Oct. 16, 1982.

It was a tall order for the Vols.

Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant had an 11-game winning streak against UT. The Crimson Tide was 5-0, ranked No. 2 in the country and coming off a 42-21 victory against then-No. 3 Penn State.

Johnny Majors was in his sixth season as Tennessee’s coach and was 0-5 against Alabama.

The Vols were 2-2-1, unranked, and coming off a 24-24 tie at LSU.

Tennessee trailed 21-13 at halftime and rallied for a 35-28 victory to end the losing streak in front of 95,342 fans at Neyland Stadium.

It was one of the Vols’ most memorable victories in the historic series, which continues Saturday when the Vols travel to play Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Tennessee has now lost eight consecutive games to Alabama, and Tide coach Nick Saban is 8-0 against the Vols.

Can UT break another streak like it did two weeks ago against Georgia, which had won five straight before the Vols’ 38-31 win?

Reveiz has an idea what it takes. He remembers well the 1982 game against Alabama.

“I think at some point it’s got to come from within the guys,” Reveiz explains. “I don’t think it ever comes from the coaching staff. I think it comes from the guys.

“Some of them have to step up and start believing, ‘We can do it. We can win.’ ”

Reveiz says the Vols didn’t have that mindset going into the 1982 game against Alabama.

Not until some point during the game.

UT trailed 14-3 in the second quarter, its only points on Reveiz’s 22-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead.

Willie Gault caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from Alan Cockrell, and Reveiz added a PAT kick and 32-yard field goal as the Vols cut it to 14-13.

Alabama took a 21-13 lead at the half on Walter Lewis’ 38-yard TD pass to Joey Jones.

Then the game changed.

Reveiz remembers UT’s change of thinking.

“Once the second half started, a couple of breaks started going our way and we started scoring,” Reveiz recalls. “We looked at each other like, ‘Oh my gosh, we can do this. We can get it done. We can get it back.’

“That’s when you start believing in yourself and thinking out loud instead of just keeping it in yourself, that hopefully you can win.

“Once a couple of breaks start going your way and you start believing, that’s when you realize you can win.”

Tennessee scored 22 unanswered points for a 35-21 lead against the Tide.

Reveiz kicked a 45-yard field goal. Cockrell threw a 39-yard TD pass to Mike Miller, and Cockrell threw the conversion pass to tight end Kenny Jones of Nashville.

Reveiz kicked a 40-yard field goal for a 27-21 lead. Chuck Coleman ran for a 34-yard touchdown, and Cockrell’s conversion pass to Jones made it 35-21 in the fourth.

With time running out and UT leading, 35-28, Lewis threw a desperation pass that was intercepted by Mike Terry, and the Vols pulled off the upset.

It was Bryant’s last season as Alabama’s coach.

Alabama had seven coaches after Bryant and before Saban was hired in 2007: Ray Perkins (1983-86), Bill Curry (1987-89), Gene Stallings (1990-96), Mike Dubose (1997-2000), Dennis Franchione (2001-02), Mike Price (2003), and Mike Shula (2003-06).

Florida became a big rivalry with the Vols when Steve Spurrier coached the Gators, but longtime UT fans know Alabama is still No. 1 on the list of footnall rivals.

“Quite frankly, this is the biggest game on the calendar,” Reveiz says. “I think to me, Florida is the second biggest game on the calendar.

“To me Alabama’s always been the No. 1 rivalry game, the one that’s most important on the calendar.”

UT coach Butch Jones renewed faith in some UT fans with the victory over Georgia.

It was much needed after the Vols blew double-digit leads in losses to Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas.

Reveiz is on board with Jones.

“I love his recruiting,” he says. “I love what he’s done there. I like a lot of things that he’s done for Tennessee football. I think he’s given the class and respect we’ve had up until the last few years.”

Still, there is much work to be done.

UT’s most pivotal game the rest of the season isn’t Saturday at Alabama, but against Kentucky on Oct. 31 in Lexington.

If the Vols lose to Alabama and Kentucky, they’ll be 3-5 and needing to finish with victories over South Carolina, North Texas, Missouri and Vanderbilt to salvage a winning season.

It’s far from the eight- or nine-win season some expected from UT.

“I think like everything else, (Jones) needs to get a couple of more wins like the Georgia game to bring a lot of people around and start believing because you know what, winning cures everything,” Reveiz explains.

“It sounds simple, but it’s the truth. When you win, people forget about a lot of the wrong calls on the field, a lot of the missteps, and you move forward.”

Matchups to watch

Dobbs vs. Tide ‘D’: If the Vols are to make an upset bid, junior quarterback Joshua Dobbs must have a big game. Not an easy task.

Alabama is sixth in the nation and first in the SEC in total defense (271.9 yards per game) coming off Saturday’s 41-23 victory over then-No. 9 Texas A&M, which dropped to 15th.

The Tide leads the SEC and is third in the nation in rush defense (70.9), and is second in the league and 15th nationally in points allowed per game (16.7).

“The thing that is impressive is their 16 takeaways, and four of those have resulted in touchdowns,” Jones says. “They lead the conference with 12 interceptions, and they are No. 1 in our conference in pass defense efficiency.

“When you look at a defense, a lot of times, they may be No. 1 at one end of the categories, in terms of running the football, but then on pass, it’s another element. With (Alabama), they are very balanced.”

Henry/Tide Rush vs. Vols’ D-line: Tennessee’s defensive front faces another top running back as it tries to slow down Alabama’s Derrick Henry, who’s coming off a career-high 236 yards against Texas A&M.

Henry, a bruising runner at 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, averaged 7.4 yards on 32 carries and scored two touchdowns against the Aggies.

He’s second in the SEC in rushing with 901 yards behind LSU’s Leonard Fournette (1,202).

UT is 10th in the SEC in rush defense, allowing 170.5 yards per game, while Alabama is fourth in the SEC in rushing offense (198.7).

The Vols lost freshman defensive tackle Shy Tuttle to a broken leg against Georgia, leaving an already thin defensive line even thinner.

True freshman Kahlil McKenzie continued to get more snaps against Georgia, and may be in for more with Tuttle out.

“With our limited depth at the defensive tackle spot, we’re going to need that from (McKenzie),” Jones says.

“We thought he played his best game of his short Tennessee career so far in the Georgia game, particularly in the second half. He has done a very good job of creating great football stamina.

“We’re going to need him to be able to give us a number of plays in a row.”

UT O-line vs. Bama rush: Tennessee’s offensive line took a beating against Georgia, and it better be healed for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama leads the SEC in sacks with 22 this season after posting six against Texas A&M – five on starting quarterback Kyle Allen and one on backup Kyler Murray.

Junior Jonathan Allen (6-3, 283) is a force on the defensive line and leads the Tide with five sacks for minus-37 yards.

Junior linebacker Tim Williams is next with 3.5 sacks for minus -18 yards, Da’Shawn Hand has 2.5 sacks, and three others have two sacks each.

UT, which gave up 43 sacks last season, has allowed 11 this year with the mobile Dobbs at quarterback.

“They’ve been able to put pressure on the quarterback with all of their line twists and line stunts,” Jones points out.

“They do a great job with that. They use their hands very well on defense, particularly up front.

“They’ve been able to impact the quarterback by applying pressure. I think it starts up front. They’ve been more athletic than they’ve been in the past at linebacker.

“They do a great job, I think of being able to break and drive to the ball.”

Five things to watch

Vols’ health

Tennessee was able to beat Georgia with a makeshift offensive line.

Tackle Brett Kendrick was out for the Georgia game due to injury, and center/guard Mack Crowder and guard Jashon Robertson were injured against the Bulldogs.

Attrition on the line started before the opener when guard Marcus Jackson was lost for the season to injury.

True freshmen Chance Hall and Jack Jones played the entire second half against Georgia and performed admirably against a talented defensive front as the Vols rallied from a 21-point deficit.

Jones anticipates Robertson, Crowder, and Kendrick will be able to play against Alabama.

But if they’re not full speed, Hall and Jones certainly didn’t hurt their chances of getting in the rotation with their showing against the Bulldogs.

“We’ll make that determination of what individuals give us the best opportunity to win with our health and everything that goes into it,” Jones says.

“You are playing one of the most dominating fronts in all of college football.”

Jones vs. Tide

Coach Jones’ first game at Tuscaloosa in 2013 turned ugly quickly with No. 1 Alabama taking a 35-0 halftime lead on its way to a 45-10 victory.

Dobbs, then a freshman, got his first college snaps in place of struggling Justin Worley, who threw two interceptions (one returned for TD) before being replaced.

UT again turned to Dobbs in the 2014 game against the Tide, which Alabama won 34-20 at Neyland Stadium.

Sophomore Nathan Peterman got the start for the Vols, and after two series, was replaced by Dobbs.

UT fell behind 27-0, but Dobbs rallied the Vols, who scored 17 unanswered points.

Henry ended the scoreless stretch with a 28-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.

Dobbs completed 19 of 32 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns and ran 19 times for 75 yards, the most for a UT quarterback since Tee Martin’s 81 against Syracuse in 1998.

Jones says the Vols need a victory Saturday to make the rivalry “relevant” again.

“I understand the importance of the rivalry,” Jones adds. “This game means a lot to both institutions, both universities, our fan bases and our players.

“It means a lot. I have spoken about getting the rivalry back to making it relevant again. …

“We are going to have to play great, mistake-free football to get the game into the fourth quarter. Once you get in a game, getting into the fourth quarter, as we all know, anything can happen.”

Tide’s steady QB

Alabama senior Jacob Coker, who started his career at Florida State, has settled into the job as the No. 1 quarterback after backing up Blake Sims most of the 2014 season.

Coker is seventh in the SEC in passing yards per game (206.3). He’s completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 1,238 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.

“I think he’s playing winning football,” Jones says of Coker. “He’s managing their offense. They are playing to his skill set. I thought the past couple of weeks he’s been able to make plays with his legs when the pocket collapses.

“He’s doing a good job managing it. I think they do a great job of creating one-on-one matchups out on the perimeter with their wide receivers.

“Again, (they’re) benefitted by a very talented offensive line, big, physical, and two very good running backs. So (Coker) has a lot of individuals around him.”

Kamara’s return to Tuscaloosa

Tennessee junior tailback Alvin Kamara makes his return to Alabama, where he was redshirted in 2013 as a true freshman out of Norcross (Ga.) High.

His season with the Tide didn’t go well.

Kamara suffered a knee injury midway through 2013 training camp, had arthroscopic surgery, and in November that year was suspended from the team for what Saban called “behavior reasons.”

Instead of sitting out a season as a Division I transfer, Kamara spent 2014 playing for Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.

Kamara is the Vols’ third-leading rusher (255 yards) behind Jalen Hurd (572) and Dobbs (368).

“Alvin is as competitive of a young man as we have in our football program,” Jones says. “I know he talks about his time at Alabama. He talks about the respect that he has for that football program. He still has a number of friends on that football team, but really we don’t talk about it a lot.

“Alvin is a very determined, very confident young man, but he’s very focused and very determined, and he doesn’t talk very much about the past.

“So, I don’t see his approach changing at all from this game to any other game.”

Losing streaks and more

UT is seeking its first victory over a Top-10 team since beating No. 10 Georgia 51-33 in Athens on Oct. 7, 2006. That was 3,304 days ago.

The Vols have lost 24 consecutive games against Top-10 teams since that victory, and haven’t won on the road against a ranked team since that game. Since then, UT has lost 22 straight on the road against ranked teams.

UT is 4-7 in games in Tuscaloosa and last won there on Oct. 25, 2003. Casey Clausen threw five TD passes and the No. 22 Vols won in five overtimes.

Clausen won the game with a 1-yard quarterback sneak and handed Alabama (3-6, 1-4) its fifth loss in six games. Tide coach Mike Shula was fired after finishing 6-6 in the regular season, and Joe Kines served as interim coach in the Independence Bowl.

Dave Link is a freelance journalist living in Knoxville.

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