Tennessee upsets Alabama in 52-49 shootout

 

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Hunter De Siver

On Oct. 10, my fraternity brother asked me if he should be nervous about Saturday’s game against Tennessee.

“Don’t be surprised if it’s close,” I said. “They’re legit.”

The question came two days after Alabama’s goal-line stop against unranked Texas A&M made the Tide’s position look vulnerable.

This exposure would open a hole in the Alabama armada with concerns looming across the college football community. Of course, Alabama has won close games to unranked teams in the past, but they usually dominate another sub Top-25 team the next week.

But after Texas A&M was the No. 6 ranked Tennessee Volunteers, in Knoxville.

Since 2007, Crimson Tide fans have treated each Tennessee game as if it’d been won before kickoff.

Saturday was different.

Tennessee’s offense was as high-powered as any other school’s, and the leader of their undefeated brigade is quarterback Hendon Hooker.

Hooker led the Vols to victories against three ranked teams — the best result this year. The gunslinger averaged more than 300 passing yards and two touchdowns per game and hadn’t thrown an interception.

On the night of Oct. 8, the popular weekly “College Gameday” announced it was headed to Knoxville, adding even more hype to the matchup. Legendary Hall-of-Fame quarterback and Tennessee Alum Peyton Manning was the guest picker.

Throughout the week, sports bettors learned the history of this “Third Saturday in October” rivalry, determining how many sides pointed to the Vols.

The 15 years of tears, ranked wins, the Heisman candidate quarterback, the home-field advantage, hosting a TV show watched by millions…was this the formula to take down Alabama?

Not only was this game the most ticketed one in college football, but in the NFL as well. Sunday features the most-anticipated matchup of the entire regular season with the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs. Over 60% of gamblers rolled the dice with the Vols.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was set to make his first start since his shoulder sprain against Arkansas on Oct. 1. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner was healthy enough to take on the emerging leader for the sport’s highest award in 2022.

Caesars Sportsbook listed the over/under for total points scored as 67.5. With two Heisman-caliber quarterbacks, this was destined to be a high-scoring affair.

And high-scoring it was.

Tennessee Volunteers running back Jabari Small opened up the scoring from one-yard out. Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs tied it up the next possession with an eight-yard run.

The Tide struggled with penalties throughout the entire game, but they had the same amount of flags as they did points midway through the first quarter.

Hooker is known for his deep throwing ability and it was evident towards some of his receivers, but none had the impact like Jalin Hyatt. Hyatt had two touchdowns to end the first quarter, putting the Vols up 21-7.

The Tide found themselves in a 28-10 hole early in the second quarter. With 11:11 remaining in the third quarter, Gibbs made a 26-yard touchdown run look easy and a two-point conversion catch by Ja’Corey Brooks tied the game at 28.

Then the shootout began.

Hyatt caught his third touchdown of the game to make it 34-28, but the extra point failed. The Tide took advantage of the mishap with Gibbs’ third touchdown of the game and an extra point by Reichard gave Alabama their first lead.

The Hooker and Hyatt duo would strike again from 78 yards out to take back the lead and get the 2-point conversion to make the score 42-35.

A methodical 10-play drive led by Young ended with a 1-yard touchdown by tight end Cameron Latu on fourth and goal.

On the very next drive, Alabama took the lead after a miscommunication on a fumbled handoff leading to an easy scoop and score by linebacker Dallas Turner.

Now down by a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, Hooker was eligible for a Heisman moment, meaning he had to make a play that would put him ahead of every CFB player in the nation.

After 10 plays, Hooker and the Vols found themselves in a fourth and five on Alabama’s 28-yard line. Hooker launched it near the endzone, but it was picked off by Kool-Aid McKinstry who returned it 82 yards.

It was assumed that Alabama’s chances of winning this game were now inevitable, but a late flag said otherwise. The refs called a pass interference on Malachi Moore, giving Tennessee the ball back.

The very next play, the Vols tied the game after Hyatt’s fifth touchdown catch. Hyatt gained national attention throughout the game, but that catch made him famous.

With 3:26 remaining, Alabama had the chance to drive down the field and win the game. We’ve seen it done before. Many times last season, in fact.

Young got the Tide to the Vols’ 32-yard line, but it was fourth down. Reichard had already nailed two field goals this game, but one from 50 yards out is no walk in the park. Reichard kicked wide right. No good.

Immediately after he missed the field goal, I turned around from my chair and made eye contact with the same person who’d asked me earlier that week if he should be nervous. I nodded. Nervous we were.

With the game still tied at 49, Hooker had one final chance to win the game in regulation. Hooker found wide receiver Ramel Keyton for 18 yards to get to the 50-yard line with nine seconds remaining.

The next play, Hooker connected with wide receiver Bru McCoy for 27 yards. McCoy’s leaping catch was one that made Bama fans shake their heads.

Tennessee was a 40-yard field goal away from breaking the streak and having the best weekend of all time.

The snap and hold were fine, but Chase McGrath’s kick was like a knuckleball. It was unsure if it had the distance, but it just kept going.

Sports are amazing for so many reasons, but the difference between a stadium of euphoric joy versus one of despair, silence and shock is massive.

McGrath’s kick went through the uprights. The game ended 52-49.

Neyland Stadium went from a green field to an orange sea of fans ecstatic after the end of the Vols’ 15-year losing streak. Fireworks shot from the stadium, capping off the victory as Alabama fans everywhere tasted bitter defeat.

Alabama dropped to No. 6 in the AP Poll. Tennessee moved up to No. 3. A perfect swap from the week before.

The Crimson Tide is aiming for a Top-4 spot, but that won’t happen unless they win the rest of the regular season.

Their next challenge on the road to the College Football Playoff is in Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday against No. 24 Mississippi State at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

Categories: Alabama, College Sports, Sports