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Alabama-Tennessee: Takeaways from an epic rivalry game

The No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers knocked off the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide at home with a last-second field goal in a barn burner of a game.

It started great for the Vols, as they jumped out to a 28-10 lead against the Crimson Tide. Quarterback Bryce Young and Bama mounted an impressive comeback but fell short.

Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker and receiver Jalin Hyatt were unstoppable Saturday. Hooker finished with 385 yards passing, 5 touchdowns and 1 interception. Hyatt caught all five of Hooker’s touchdown strikes and had 207 yards receiving. His touchdown output set a school record.

Tennessee’s victory is its first win against a Nick Saban-coached Alabama team. The Vols were 0-15 against Saban-led Crimson Tide squads entering this game.

Here are some of the best plays and moments from a wild game between Alabama and Tennessee:

Final takeaways

The Alabama-Tennessee rivalry — better known as The Third Saturday in October — has faded from national prominence over the past decade. While the Crimson Tide surged under Nick Saban, the Vols struggled under a turnstile of head coaches.

But this year’s game felt like a return to glory with both teams undefeated and ranked in the AP top 10. And both teams delivered with big plays and huge momentum swings.

Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker and Alabama’s Bryce Young played like two of the best quarterbacks in the country. Hooker delivered beautiful deep balls — over and over again. Young, meanwhile, eluded the pass rush repeatedly, making plays out of nothing.

And Jalin Hyatt and Jahmyr Gibbs made their case for two of the best playmakers in the SEC. Gibbs ran for three touchdowns. Hyatt set a school record with five scores.

Who needs defense with players like that?

The two offenses combined for more than 1,000 yards and one spectacular, if wobbly, game-winning field goal.

The final score: Tennessee 52, Alabama 49.

Tennessee ended a 15-game losing streak in the series in spectacular fashion as Chase McGrath kicked the game-winning, 40-yard field goal with no time remaining.

Alabama, handed its first loss of the season, will look back on the defeat and regret a litany of mental errors, including a whopping 17 penalties and a few key drops. As well as Young played, he couldn’t make up for a lackluster receiver corps and offensive line. — Alex Scarborough

Five for Hyatt

Not one, not two, not three. Jalin Hyatt scored his fifth touchdown on the day thanks to a 13-yard strike from Hooker. At the time of his fifth score, Hyatt caught six balls for 207 yards, a dominant outing against the Crimson Tide defense.

A critical mistake

A fumble by Hooker on a handoff exchange with Jabari Small deep in Vols territory was scooped up by Dallas Turner and returned 11 yards for a momentum-shifting touchdown. Bama took the lead 49-42.

Here come the Tide

Young showed off his improvisational skills, this time drawing in the defense and then finding tight end Cameron Latu for a 1-yard score. It’s knotted up at 42 in the fourth quarter.

Hyatt continues to shine

Hooker to Jalin Hyatt was an effective connection against Bama. The duo connected for a 78-yard strike, giving them both four touchdowns on the day. Hyatt’s four receiving scores are a school record. A 2-point conversion gave Tennessee a seven-point lead early in the fourth.

Back-and-forth affair

The Crimson Tide finally got in the end zone after multiple miscues near the goal line. Jahmyr Gibbs punched it in from 2 yards out for his third touchdown on the day. It’s Gibbs’ first career game with three rushing scores. Bama converted the extra point to take the lead against the Vols 35-34.

Vols’ offense is rolling

It has been the Jalin Hyatt show against the Crimson Tide. He scored his third touchdown of the day on a 60-yard pass from Hooker. A failed extra point kept the Volunteers’ lead at six.

Bama ties it up

Bama responded after the half by getting a stop on defense and then orchestrating a three-play, 59-yard drive capped by a 26-yard run by Gibbs. A 2-point conversion tied the game at 28.

First-half takeaways

Give Tennessee credit for building a 28-20 first-half lead against Alabama at home. The Vols, playing in front of a raucous crowd, started fast and kept the pressure on the Crimson Tide.

Tennessee receiver Jalin Hyatt was borderline unguardable, reeling in two first-half touchdowns from Hendon Hooker, who was picture-perfect to start the game. Hooker completed 12 of 16 passes for 166 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He joined Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow as the only quarterbacks since 2015 to score 28 or more first-half points against Alabama.

The Crimson Tide will enter the locker room in Neyland Stadium kicking themselves for repeating the same mistakes from earlier in the season. In some ways, it felt like a replay of last month’s scare vs. Texas — turnovers, dropped passes, penalties and missed blocks.

Quarterback Bryce Young, back from injury after missing last week’s game against Texas A&M, was hurried on six dropbacks. Hooker, meanwhile, wasn’t hurried once.

Alabama accounted for nine penalties. Tennessee had two.

A comeback from the Crimson Tide won’t be possible until they quit shooting themselves in the foot, make a few stops on defense and find a receiver who can make a play on his own. Running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and Jase McClellan are shouldering the load, but they can’t do it on their own. And field goals aren’t going to be enough to get the job done. — Scarborough

Alabama scores before the half

The Crimson Tide managed to get some points on the board with 36 seconds left before halftime thanks to a 49-yard field goal by Will Reichard. They trailed Tennessee 28-20 entering the break.

Bryce throws a dime

Young led Bama on a 10-play, 84-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Ja’Corey Brooks. It was an exceptional pass, hitting Brooks in the end zone while rolling to his left.

Vols keep scoring

After Bama muffed a punt that gave Tennessee the ball back, Vols tight end Princeton Fant ran it in from 3 yards out to increase Tennessee’s lead to 18. Alabama gave up 28 points at the 11:41 mark of the second quarter, which eclipsed its season high for points given up (26 against Arkansas).

Bama chips away

Alabama’s 73-yard drive stalled near the goal line, but a 21-yard field goal by Will Reichard cut Tennessee’s lead to 11 early in the second quarter.

Three TDs for Tennessee

It’s been all Volunteers in the first quarter. Hooker and Hyatt connected on another touchdown, this time an 11-yard catch and run. Tennessee extended its lead to 14 over Alabama in the first quarter.

Hooker shows off the arm

Points were scored quickly, as Hooker connected with receiver Jalin Hyatt for a 36-yard score. It is Hyatt’s sixth touchdown this season and put Tennessee back in front.

Bama responds

Bryce Young‘s shoulder looked pretty good, as he made a couple of impressive throws to put Bama in scoring position. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs capped off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run.

Tennessee strikes first

The Vols’ opening drive lasted less than two minutes and ended with a Jabari Small touchdown run from a yard out. Tennessee is the first Alabama opponent to score a touchdown on the first offensive possession this season.

A talk with a legend

Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker chatted with Tennessee alum and Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning before kickoff.

The teams arrive

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