KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – – After 15 years as a nominal Alabama rival, Tennessee beat a modest losing streak, established itself as a championship contender, and celebrated spectacularly.
Chase McGrath hit a goal on the 40-yard field when time expired to give No. 6 Tennessee a 52-49 win over No. 3 Alabama on Saturday.
Immediately after the kick passed the uprights, some of the more than 100,000 fans stormed onto the pitch to join the party as the Volunteers (6-0, 3-0 Southeast Conference) ended the streak. 15 games without loss against Crimson Tides (6-1, 3-1).
Fireworks exploded over Neyland Stadium and it glowed orange as the song “Dixieland Delight” by the band Alabama – a favorite singer of the Crimson Tide – played over the stadium’s speakers.
And it didn’t take long for the goal posts to drop.
Vols coach Josh Heupel said: “This is college football at its best. “We were the best team on the pitch tonight. That’s all we can control.”
“We didn’t answer the bell today,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We’ve done so much to help (Tennessee).”
“It wasn’t my clearest shot,” said McGrath, who had failed the PAT before. “I didn’t make the best contact.”
Jalin Hyatt caught six passes in 207 yards and a Tennessee record five touchdowns.
Alabama wingback Bryce Younga game-time decision because of a sprained right shoulder two weeks ago, completed 35 passes for 455 yards and twice TD.
“It was great to be out there with my teammates,” Young said. “(My) shoulder is fine.”
Hyatt’s fifth TD catch puts it at 49 with 3:26 left in the fourth game.
“(This game) just happened,” Hyatt said. “It’s not just me. It’s just the looks we have.”
Young drove the Tide into Tennessee territory at the last minute, but Alabama was stopped at 33 with three uncompleted straight passes. Will Reichard tried to take the lead at nearly 50 yards to take the lead.
With just 21 seconds remaining, it looked like there would be more time, but Hooker didn’t finish and the Heisman Trophy winner excelled.
Hooker finished with 21 finishes for 385 yards and five TDs.
“(Hooker) played at an unbelievable level,” Heupel said. “He was the key to our boom.”
“We approach every game equally,” says Hooker. “100% play for our brothers.”
Tennessee hasn’t beaten a Top 10 team since 2006 against Georgia. That was also the last year the Vols defeated Alabama.
A season later, Nick Saban became the coach of Alabama. As Tide has become college football’s greatest dynasty with six national titles, Tennessee has burned through coaches and fallen into obscurity.
In his second season in Knoxville, Heupel had Tennessee look like a legitimate national championship contender behind a transfer quarterback from Virginia Tech who was in the Heisman picture.
A week after Alabama knocked Texas A&M out of the final zone on the final run of the game to avoid discomfort, Tide went down. The Vols have scored the most points against an Alabama team since Sewanee scored 54 goals against Tide in 2007.
Tide also had 17 penalties at 130 yards, the most in the Saban era, according to ESPN.
Tennessee’s up-tempo attack took a 21-7 lead in the first half and a 28-20 lead after halftime. All four touch drives took more than two minutes.
Young threw 205 yards and a touchdown in the first half, while Hooker had 166 yards and two points. Young was not fired, but was knocked down five times in the inning.
Alabama beat Tennessee’s lone hit. The Vols recovered and scored four turns later.
Alabama: Alabama has no answers for a Tennessee team that won’t give up. Late results 49-42 slipped away.
Tennessee: This is a huge step forward for the program that Josh Heupel is building. Playing in a meaningful mid-season game about the knockouts is the first step to getting a taste of ultimate success.
Two key Tennessee players were absent. WR Cedric Tillman, who sprained his high ankle against Akron, did not compete despite having surgery to speed up his recovery three weeks ago. This is his third game to be missed.
Hooker hit a touchdown pass in 18 consecutive games, marking Heath Shuler’s school record (1992-94). … In one possession in its territory, Alabama had hold, move and delay penalties and a clumsy snap that caused Bryce Young to recover. The Vols got the ball on Tide 35 and scored four innings later. … Hooker’s third-quarter intercept was the first of his 260 passes.
Tennessee has the ball with Alabama 2. Rule-breaking, Hooker goes under center rather than shotgun because the Vols are lined up in the I lineup. Full back Princeton Fanta tight finisher, who was recruited as a backrunner, got his first performance since 2018 and scored.
Alabama: Host the State of Mississippi next Saturday.
Tennessee: Host Tennessee-Martin next Saturday.