KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Essentially the most anticipated recreation in Knoxville in a era led to probably the most delirious means doable for the Vols.
Chase McGrath’s 40-yard area as time expired gave Tennessee the 52-49 win over their hated rival, who had tortured them for 15 straight matchups relationship again to 2006.
It was a wild back-and-forth recreation through which the Vols led 28-10 early and seemed to be headed for a gut-wrenching defeat when the Crimson Tide took a 49-42 lead on a fumble returned to the home halfway by way of the fourth quarter.
UT then tied it up, giving Alabama a shot to drive for the win within the closing seconds. However Will Reichard’s 50-yard area purpose try sailed huge proper with 15 seconds left within the recreation.
That was on a regular basis Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker wanted to get his crew in area purpose vary.
He completed 21-for-30 passing with 385 yards, 5 landing passes and an interception.
None of his completions have been larger than his two strikes of 18 and 27 yards in the previous couple of seconds to get it in McGrath’s vary.
The sport began with a livid Tennessee flurry of scoring earlier than the Crimson Tide fought their means again.
On the sport’s opening drive, Alabama quarterback Bryce Younger — in his first recreation again since struggling a shoulder damage within the first half in opposition to Arkansas two weeks in the past — regarded tentative and ineffective, and the Tide punted after simply 5 performs. In got here Hooker, hailed as the perfect Tennessee quarterback since you-know-who. Lower than two minutes later, the Vols have been ultimately zone, the important thing play of the drive a 20-yard Hooker scramble that electrified an already-juiced Neyland Stadium crowd.
Younger regarded a bit extra like his Heisman-winning self on the following drive, guiding Alabama 71 yards to a tying landing off a Jahmyr Gibbs sprint. That was the final spotlight for Alabama for fairly a while, as Tennessee feasted on mistake after Tide mistake.
Alabama hadn’t allowed a landing within the first quarter in its final 13 video games, the longest streak within the nation. Tennessee fortunately and shortly dropped three on the Tide. The primary time Alabama compelled Tennessee right into a punt, early within the second quarter, the Tide promptly handed the ball again on one of many strangest performs ever seen within the Nick Saban regime: a botched punt return that ended up in Tennessee’s fingers.
All through the sport, Hooker was a mannequin of effectivity, discovering open receivers all through the Alabama secondary and finding receivers who simply flat-out outran the protection. Alabama was combating an uphill conflict, battling each a motivated, quick-strike Tennessee crew and its personal errors, penalties that killed drives and saved the Vols rolling.
With greater than 12 minutes remaining within the second quarter, the Vols scored but once more to go up 28-10. The stadium was delirious, goals of a mammoth upset and cigar smoke dancing of their heads.
However Alabama remains to be Alabama, even by way of self-inflicted wounds. Down 18, Younger demonstrated precisely why he’s the reigning Heisman champion, and why Alabama’s probabilities rely solely on the well being of his proper shoulder. The Alabama offensive line did him few favors, however he matadored his means out of jam after jam. He threw passes into areas the scale of mailboxes. He eluded the Tennessee rush with balletic spins. He struck quick and sometimes, and pulled the Tide again even with Tennessee with lower than 4 minutes elapsed within the third quarter.
With their three-possession lead gone, the Vols had each alternative to fold. As an alternative, they went massive — very, very massive. Hooker hit Jalin Hyatt for touchdowns of 60 and 78 yards, and Neyland Stadium vibrated all the way down to its foundations. The one downside for Tennessee: Alabama was matching the Vols rating for rating.
Younger was unbelievable, with a ending passing line of 35-for-52, 455 yards and two touchdowns. Nevertheless it wasn’t fairly sufficient this time.