Two Top-10 SEC teams put on an absolute show on Saturday. The No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide went into hostile territory in Knoxville Tennessee against the No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers. In one of the season’s most anticipated games, the Volunteers survived a back-and-forth offensive onslaught to win 52-49. Let’s dive into what occurred in this wild SEC battle.
It did not take long for one team to gain all of the momentum. The first quarter saw Tennessee roll right over Alabama in all aspects of the game.
Alabama began the game with a punt and in the blink of an eye the Volunteers put up points. In seven plays over 1:58 Tennessee scored a touchdown to go up 7-0. Alabama did a great job to respond as they tied the game up with an eight-play drive over 2:19.
However, the rest of the first quarter saw two drives from Tennessee where they used a combined 2:18 and nine plays to score two more touchdowns.
At the end of the first 15 minutes, the No. 6 team in the country was feeling great up 21-7. Their confidence rolled into the second quarter.
As Alabama’s offense was moving well, the Volunteer defense stepped up and forced a field goal. This made the game 21-10.
Tennessee’s offense walked back onto the field, but the Crimson Tide’s defense was too strong and they forced a three-and-out. On the punt, one of the Crimson Tide special teams members accidentally attempted to grab the ball and muffed it. Tennessee recovered and three plays later they punched in it for a touchdown.
Through the first 20 minutes, the Volunteers appeared to be in full control. Even though Alabama was losing this is still an Alabama team with coach Nick Saban and the reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young. Nothing is out of reach for them.
Alabama utilized their time to the best of their ability to close out the first half. On their final two drives, they used up 7:03 to score a touchdown and field goal. They went into halftime down only 28-20.
The second half began with a turnover on downs by Tennessee which led to a game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion by Alabama. Suddenly what was once 28-10 was now 28-28.
The Volunteers returned fire in only 55 seconds with a big 60-yard touchdown reception from Jalin Hyatt. Unfortunately, the extra point was missed, a poor special teams mistake.
After that quick score, Alabama took their time. They went 12 plays over 5:49 to move 75 yards for a touchdown. With the extra point, they took their first lead of the game at 35-34. However, the Crimson Tide should not have gotten this score. On 3rd & Goal from the 16-yard line, Young threw an incomplete pass in the endzone. To the dismay of Tennessee, defender De’Shawn Rucker was called for pass interference. This was a mistake by the officials as Rucker was actually the one pulled to the ground so it should have been offensive pass interference.
Late Game Twists
At the start of the fourth quarter, the intensity ramped up. The Volunteers’ defense forced a punt, but their offense was pinned deep at the six-yard line. Two plays later they moved 16 yards to feel a bit more comfortable. At that moment, QB Hendon Hooker went to Mr. Reliable, Jalin Hyatt, who took a 78-yard pass for the go-ahead touchdown and two-point conversion. Tennessee was now back up 42-35.
In response, Alabama put together another methodical double-digit play drive. The Crimson Tide had 4th & Goal from the one, but Tennessee could not get the stop and the result was the game-tying touchdown.
Once again, Tennessee was pinned deep in their own territory. On second down at the 17, the Volunteers fumbled and the Crimson Tide recovered and returned it for the crucial go-ahead touchdown. Suddenly Alabama was up 49-42.
The majority of Tennessee’s drives were very quick. Up to this point, all six of their touchdown drives took less than two minutes. Needing to score, the Volunteers used 4:23 to go 75 yards in 11 plays. The drive was capped off with a 13-yard pass to Hyatt for his fifth touchdown reception.
3:26 remained on the clock in a 49-49 game.
The game was trending towards a walk-off field goal by Alabama. Bryce Young did what a Heisman does and put his team in a position to score, which included two massive third-down conversions. The Tennessee defense held strong and forced a 50-yard field goal attempt.
Unlike against the Texas Longhorns earlier in the season, kicker Will Reichard missed the kick wide right.
The Volunteers were set up at the 32-yard line with 15 seconds remaining. The ball was put in the hands of QB Hendon Hooker who stepped up big time. His first pass went for 18 yards to Ramel Keyton. Then, with nine seconds on the clock, Hooker delivered a perfect pass to Bru McCoy for 27 yards.
Two seconds remained, and the stage was set for kicker Chase McGrath. A 40-yard field goal attempt stood between a Volunteer victory and overtime.
Not wanting to let Alabama touch the ball again, McGrath hit a knuckleball which just cleared the goal post for an upset-inducing, AP Poll shifting, SEC shaking, field storming, game-winning field goal.
The Alabama offense racked up a game-high 569 total yards.
The majority of the yards were from QB Young who went 35/52 for 455 pass yards and two pass TDs. Included in all of that success were 11 passes of 15 or more yards. This was his second-most pass yards in a game behind when he threw for 559 last season against Arkansas.
Their ground game also was responsible for 114 yards. The leader of the running side of the game was Jahmyr Gibbs who carried the ball 24 times for 103 yards and three TDs. He also had five catches for 48 yards.
The Tennessee offense was also very explosive with 567 total yards.
The leader of this squad was QB Hooker who went 21/30 for 385 yards and five TDs. He was also responsible for 56 rush yards. This was his first game with 385 or more pass yards and five TDs. It is already his third game this season with 320 or more pass yards.
Outside of the two QBs, the biggest name from this game is receiver Hyatt who caught only six passes, but from those, he had 207 yards and five TDs. If he touched the ball he was most likely headed to the endzone. Coming into this game he had 27 receptions for 388 yards and five total TDs.
With Alabama’s pure dominance and Tennessee’s struggles, it had been a while for an outcome like this. The last time the Volunteers took down the Tide was October 21, 2006, when the Volunteers won 16-13 in Knoxville. Between those wins, Alabama was 15-0.
Tennessee only beat Alabama once when giving them 40 or more points. That was when they won 51-43 in OT on October 25, 2003. They have never won when allowing 49 or more. They were 0-4 in those games.
The last time the Volunteers won when allowing 49 or more to any team was when they beat the Kentucky Wildcats 52-50 in OT on November 24, 2007.
For Alabama, the last time they scored over 40 points and lost was in the Iron Bowl classic on November 30, 2019, when the Auburn Tigers won 48-45.
There is plenty to analyze in this game, but for Alabama, there is one glaring issue that occurred from start to finish: penalties. They actually set a school record with 17 penalties for 130 yards. For a team that is supposed to be one of the best in the league, this was an absurdly undisciplined game.
Knoxville Tennessee was the location of one of the wildest college football games of the season. It has been a long time since the Tennessee Volunteers toppled one of college football’s and SEC’s juggernauts, but it was well worth the wait. Both teams showed off their incredible offensive ability, but there is some serious defensive improvement needed. It will be interesting to see how this result impacts the SEC and the playoffs.
Next up Tennessee will stay at home against UT Martin and No. 22 Kentucky before going on the road to No. 1 Georgia. Alabama will go home to face No. 16 Mississippi State before going back on the road against LSU.
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