Jones questions late substitution on Bama TD
Amari Cooper came across the formation, took in the pass in the flats from a bootlegging Blake Sims, got a couple blocks and went 80 yards up the west sideline for a touchdown on No. 4 Alabama's first play from scrimmage in Saturday night's 34-20 win over Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.
It was the first of 20 first-quarter points for Crimson Tide and the first of 185 receiving yards for Cooper in the opening 10 minutes, five seconds of game time.
But Tennessee coach Butch Jones said it never should've been allowed to happen.
Asked if there was a coverage bust on the play, Jones didn't hesitate in saying it was nothing Tennessee did. Instead, it was something Alabama shouldn't have been allowed to do.
"Actually, they ran a late substitution in," he said. "This is a matching-personnel game. We felt the play should've been held up a little bit. It didn't work in that.
"What happened, the nickel, based on where they aligned, was on the other side of the field. So that's what happened."
Players called it miscommunication.
Tennessee's defense saw a certain personnel, made a call and lined up to execute it. That's when things broke down.
"Just poor communication, didn't line up right in the formation," sophomore corner Cam Sutton said. "We should've had guys in different spots than they were. Like I said, (Cooper) makes great plays with the ball in his hand and he got loose."
Alabama lined up in a trips set, with three receivers split left, before walking a player onto the field on the right side of the formation, in front of its own sideline.
Sims rolled right with Cooper coming back across the formation for the dump pass and turned up field for the untouched streak up the sideline.
"That definitely affected us because we already had guys lined up," linebacker Curt Maggitt said. "The call was in, it went fast. We've got to be able to communicate. Watch film, get a guy over. We had too many guys to one side."
The play initiated a game-long conversation between Jones and the officiating crew, with Tennessee's coach wanting officials to stand over the ball when players were ran on the field late, giving the Vols a chance to match personnel.
"We base our defense off of personnel and things like that," Sutton said, "so when they're running guys in and out, it's hard for us to get adjusted when they're running guys different guys on the field.
"But like I said, communication wise, we just have to do a better job of communicating."
Maggitt said he didn't see the player walk onto the field until the "last second." Sutton never saw him at all.
"I didn't see him come on the field," he said. "I just saw the guys that were on the field. We put our call in and lined up to the call. We just had guys in the wrong spot.
"Lack of communication. They made us pay for it. Great teams make us pay for mistakes that we have."
Cooper finished with nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns, adding a 41-yard score later in the first quarter. He's now at 1,126 yards and nine touchdowns through eight games.
"They do a great job schematically, in terms of him moving around so you can't matchup personnel, and they do different things with him," Jones said of Cooper. "He's run-after-the catch, can make every catch. Again, he's an elite player. Very deserving to be spoken about in the Heisman Trophy race. I have a lot of respect for him as a competitor."
In three career games against Tennessee, Cooper has caught 25 passes for 461 yards and five touchdowns. But Jones was quick to point out stats like that haven't just come against Tennessee.
"Everyone's had that," Jones said. "He's a good player. He should be up there in the Heisman Trophy (voting). So if you've watched them play, you see that."