By: John Dunn
Founder, Managing Editor, Host
The All Vol Call in Show
All eyes were on Neyland Stadium Saturday as the third-ranked Crimson Tide of Alabama rolled into Knoxville to take on the sixth-ranked Volunteers of Tennessee in the annual matchup between the two SEC juggernauts.
The game was billed as one of the most anticipated matchups between the two teams in decades, and it did not disappoint. Hendon Hooker and Jalin Hyatt had a record setting performance as a tandem, while 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young put on an incredible performance following a shoulder injury the week prior.
Tennessee got off to a hot start against the Crimson Tide, scoring on its opening drive. In less than two minutes, Jabari Small barreled in from 1-yard out for the first touchdown of the game, giving Tennessee a 7-0 following a successful PAT from Chase McGrath. It was the first time an Alabama opponent scored a touchdown on its first offensive possession this year.
Alabama marched down the field on the ensuing drive, answering the Tennessee score with an 8-yard rushing touchdown by Jahmyr Gibbs. The Vols regained the lead on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Hendon Hooker to Jalin Hyatt, regaining the lead, 14-7.
Tennessee extended its lead to two possessions as Hooker connected with Hyatt for their second touchdown hookup of the game from 11-yards out, giving the Vols a 21-7 lead.
The Tennessee defense stepped up big on the following Crimson Tide possession, forcing them to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown. Alabama converted the field goal and chipped into the Tennessee lead, but the Vols maintained a 21-10 advantage.
After stalling out for the first time of the game offensively, Tennessee was forced to punt. For the second straight week, the Vols' special teams unit came up big with a takeaway following a muffed punt by Alabama. Making the most of the takeaway, Tennessee punched in another touchdown, a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Princeton Fant, to take a three-possession lead at 28-10.
Alabama went on a 10-play, 84-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Ja'Corey Brooks, drawing the Tide back to within striking distance at 28-17.
After deferring the opening kickoff, Tennessee was set to receive the second half kick. With Alabama on offense, the Vols' defense needed stop the Tide and maintain as much of the lead as possible to take advantage of the deference. Alabama managed a field goal with 36-seconds remaining in the first half to draw back to within a single possession, 28-20. The score would remain cemented at the halftime intermission.
To begin the second half, the Tennessee offense failed to get anything going, allowing Alabama to take over on offense. The Tide made the most of the opportunity, knotting the game at 28-28 following a touchdown run from Gibbs and a successful 2-pt conversion.
The Vols regained the lead as Hooker connected with Hyatt for their third touchdown connection of the game. McGrath missed the following PAT, leaving Tennessee with a 34-28 advantage midway through the third stanza.
Alabama worked its way downfield on the following possession, driving deep into Tennessee territory. After making it to the 1-yard line, the Tide accrued a pair of penalties, backing them up to the 16-yard line on third down. Young scrambled in the backfield, dodging multiple Tennessee defenders, and heaved a pass downfield. The pass was incomplete, but the Vols were flagged for pass interference in the end zone, giving Alabama an automatic first down at the 1-yard line. On the ensuing play, Gibbs walked into the endzone, giving Alabama its first lead of the game at 35-34.
Tennessee failed to score on its ensuing drive, allowing the Tide to take over on offense. Alabama marched down field and worked deep into Tennessee territory. However, belayed by penalties, the Tide were once again held out of the endzone, and were forced to punt, leading 35-34 just seconds into the final frame.
On the ensuing possession, Hooker found Jalin Hyatt for their fourth touchdown connection of the game as Hyatt raced 78-yards to the checkerboard, regaining the lead 40-35. The Vols converted the following 2-pt conversion to extend the lead to seven, 42-35 with 11-minutes remaining in the game.
On the following drive, the Tide again worked deep into Tennessee territory. The Vols defense held Alabama for three plays, and on fourth-and-goal, the Tide scored, tying the game at 42-42 with 8:38 remaining in the final frame.
Tennessee committed a critical mistake on the following drive, fumbling the ball at the mesh point on a hand-off. The Tide capitalized, scoring defensively on the scoop-and-score fumble recovery, regaining a 49-42 advantage with 7:49 remaining in the game.
Following the critical error, the Tennessee offense got back to work. A helpful fourth down pass interference call set the Vols up with favorable field position. For the fifth time of the contest, Hooker found Hyatt in the checkboard for six. Following a successful PAT from McGrath, the game sat knotted at 49-49 with 3:26 remaining in the game.
On the following drive, the Tennessee defense held Alabama off the scoreboard after missing the go-ahead field goal with 21 seconds remaining in the game.
Regaining possession with limited time, the quick striking Tennessee offense got to work, quickly working into field goal range for a chance to win the game. McGrath connected on the field goal as time expired, elevating Tennessee past their SEC counterpart for the first time in 15 years.
There is one clear message to take away from today's game. The Vols are back.