Trevon Diggs' 100-yard fumble return with 7:21 left in the game Saturday night finally enabled No. 1 Alabama to put away stubborn Tennessee in a 35-13 Southeastern Conference win in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Diggs picked up a bouncing ball about two yards deep in the end zone after backup quarterback Jarrett Guarantano fumbled while trying to sneak for a touchdown on 4th-and-goal at the 1. It was the signature play in a defensive effort that saw the Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) hold the Volunteers (2-5, 1-3) to 231 total yards.
Alabama needed that kind of performance from its defense after losing Heisman Trophy candidate Tua Tagovailoa late in the second quarter with a high ankle sprain after a sack. Tagovailoa completed 11 of 12 passes for 155 yards and an interception.
Coach Nick Saban said after the game on an ESPN interview that Tagovailoa would likely miss a week or two, meaning he is probably out for next week's SEC game with Arkansas.
Najee Harris' 1-yard touchdown run 3:38 into the game gave the Tide a quick 7-0 lead, but Tagovailoa's pick and subsequent 59-yard return by Nigel Warrior set up a 2-yard scoring jaunt by Tennessee quarterback Brian Maurer at the 4:21 mark to forge a 7-7 tie.
Brian Robinson scored on a 9-yard run with 1:35 left in the first quarter to give Alabama a 14-7 advantage. But the Vols responded with Brent Cimaglia's 37-yard field goal with 11:54 remaining before halftime.
Harris, who rushed for 105 yards on 21 carries, tallied on a second 1-yard run at the 9:02 mark of the second quarter for a 21-10 lead.
Neither team scored again until Cimaglia converted a 32-yard field goal with 8:32 left in the third quarter.
However, Tide backup quarterback Mac Jones led a 76-yard touchdown drive that ended with Slade Bolden taking a shotgun snap and throwing a 6-yard strike to Miller Forristall at the 4:55 mark to make it 28-13.
Maurer was 5 of 7 for 62 yards with an interception before departing late in the first quarter with a possible concussion. Guarantano completed 7 of 16 passes for 55 yards before being benched after his fumble.
Jones hit on 6 of 11 attempts for 72 yards.
--Field Level Media