The Battle of Brampton lived up to its advanced billing.
Alabama receiver John Metchie III and Tennessee pass catcher Josh Palmer were both born and raised in the Flower City. The two are close friends and have each earned prominent roles on Southeastern Conference teams.
The sophomore has bragging rights over the senior in the win column and box score from Saturday. Metchie III was the best playmaker on the field at Neyland Stadium after the Crimson Tide’s No. 1 target, Jaylen Waddle, went down with a season-ending ankle injury on the opening kick-off.
Waddle entered the contest as Alabama’s leading receiver with 25 catches for 557 yards and four touchdowns in four games.
“It’s a high ankle sprain but also a fracture. They’ll probably have to do surgery on him. We’re going to fly him back privately with the doctors and take him right to Birmingham and see what we have to do right away,” head coach Nick Saban said in his post-game video conference.
“If that’s the case, and we’re pretty certain that it is, he would probably be out for the year. Great player, great teammate, an exciting player to watch, hate it that people in college football can’t see a great player the rest of this season.”
Metchie III stepped into the role and produced at a high level. Bama quarterback Mac Jones and Metchie III connected seven times for 151 yards, his second 100-yard game of the 2020 season. Two separate 45-yard highlight reel grabs led directly to Tide touchdowns in a dominant 48-17 victory. No. 2 ranked Alabama improved to 5-0.
The Mac Jones deep ball has become one of the best plays in college football this year. pic.twitter.com/XYj6OkucLc
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) October 24, 2020
“He’s a strong receiver, he’s got good quickness, he’s got really strong hands. Smart guy, really plays the game well, pays attention to details, runs good routes, he’s quick out of a break and fast. He’s really played well for us and come on,” Saban said about Metchie III.
Double coverage is no problem for the Mac-Metchie combo. pic.twitter.com/OqMGCrp2bd
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 24, 2020
Meanwhile, Palmer caught four passes for 57 yards and one touchdown in a losing effort. Palmer beat Patrick Surtain II for his score. That’s the son of former NFL All-Pro cover man Patrick Surtain who is projected as a high pick in the 2021 draft. The six-foot-two, 210-pounder has 19 receptions for 295 yards and four touchdowns in five games. Tennessee fell to 2-3 with the loss.
— Krown Gridiron Nation on TSN (@KGNonTSN) October 24, 2020
“I’m really disappointed. I feel like there’s plays out there that need to be made and I let the team down. I gotta play better so I can put the team in better situations. We’re going to come back stronger,” Palmer said post-game.
Waddle being sidelined for the remainder of the campaign presents a major opportunity for Metchie III to see an increase in targets. Originally, Saban’s plan was to feature Waddle and Devonta Smith and, when both move onto the NFL in the 2021 draft, Metchie III would step into a No. 1 role as a junior next season.
“It’s tough hearing that, but we responded well, focusing on the most important thing which is the next play at hand. It’s part of the sport, guys get banged up,” Metchie III said.
“The offence has a lot of weapons. It’s next man up mentality. Keep elevating the standard of play at all costs.”
The setback Waddle suffered has moved up the timetable for Metchie III, providing a chance for superstar status.