The Third Saturday in October is traditionally one of the greatest rivalries in sports. The series dates back to 1901 with the two programs attempting to play every season since 1928.
Despite this, the last 15 years have been misery for Vols fans. Alabama has taken each of the games in that span pushing its series lead to 58-38-7.
Due to this imbalance, emotions flooded Neyland Stadium as Chase McGrath’s 40-yard field goal fluttered just through the uprights giving No. 6 Tennessee (6-0, 3-0 SEC) a 52-49 lead over No. 3 Alabama (6-1, 3-1 SEC) as time expired.
The over 100,000 fans inside the stadium promptly rushed the field, tore down the goalposts and lit cigars as tears were shed and chants were shouted with the celebration lasting until sunrise.
FINAL:#Vols – 52
Alabama – 49
TENNESSEE WINS! pic.twitter.com/rXfI2SLrVv
— Ryan Sylvia (@RyanTSylvia) October 16, 2022
The key to the win was the Vols’ explosive offense. The 52 points scored against Alabama are the most the Tide have surrendered since 1907. It is also the first time Alabama has ever lost when scoring 49 or more points.
The man behind Tennessee’s success against an Alabama defense that came into the game ranked sixth in points and yards allowed per game was Jalin Hyatt.
The junior wide receiver had one of the best single-game performances in school history with five receiving touchdowns on six catches for 207 yards. The five scores set a school record and ties the SEC record for receiving touchdowns in a game. This historic night included 60 and 78-yard scores for an average of 34.5 yards a reception.
“I don’t know if you plan on that,” said Tennessee coach Josh Heupel on Hyatt’s performance. “I think that is one of the great stories. Everyone knew he wanted to be a great player. You’ve heard me say it. He has worked to become a great player this year. Preparation meets opportunity and you have to be ready to smash it. Tonight, he had opportunities and played really good football. It’s really special what he did tonight.”
Unsurpingsly, this performance has earned Hyatt awards such as the SEC and Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week.
Feeding Hyatt throughout the game was Heisman-hopeful quarterback Hendon Hooker. Hooker finished the night with 385 passing yards and five touchdowns with just a single interception. This resulted in a passer rating of 226.1. Hooker also used his legs to pick up 56 yards on the ground through 14 carries.
This caliber of performance is nothing new for Hooker but doing it against a defense as highly touted as Alabama’s unit, puts him in a league of his own.
“We came here to do a job, and we work our tails off every day to do that to the best of our abilities,” said Hooker. “We expect to win, and when we come out on the field, we’re going to give our 100 percent.”
Other key contributors on the offense were wide receivers Ramel Keyton and Bru McCoy. The pair combined for 116 yards on seven receptions. At tight end, Princeton Fant also put together an impressive night catching three balls for 24 yards and taking a rush attempt for a touchdown. In the backfield, Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small combined for 124 yards on the ground and a score, as well.
It’s easy to recognize the players who appear across the box score, but the unsung heroes of the game were the offensive line. The veteran group let up just a single sack, two tackles for loss and zero quarterback hurries in the game. They also held Alabama’s star Will Anderson Jr. to a measly three tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss. Standing out in the group was right tackle Darnell Wright who won SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.
“Coach (Glen) Elarbee does a phenomenal job with those guys,” said Heupel. “They continue to grow together. Fundamentally they have gotten better and with communication. We have been fortunate to have guys play at their positions. Our left tackles flip back and forth a little bit, but we have had some consistency. They continue to get better at passing twists games off in the pass protection and being better at combinations in the run game. Our running backs continue to get better at getting blocks and pressing the line of scrimmage and making good reads and cuts. It’s all of it together. That offensive line is where it starts for us.”
Overall, the offense appeared seemingly unstoppable in all aspects against one of the nation’s best defenses. Now, Tennessee will be able to catch its breath while hosting UT Martin before taking on another Top 25 team at home in a match with Kentucky.
Ryan Sylvia is the Sports Editor at TNJN. He is a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in journalism and electronic media. Although he spent most of his life being raised outside of Philadelphia, he was born in Knoxville, and he is happy to be back home. Ryan has had a love for sports from an early age, and he found his love for writing in high school while taking journalism classes. He hopes to find a job involving both his passions as a sports journalist after graduation. To reach Ryan, email him at email@example.com