No. 3 Alabama falls to No. 6 Tennessee for first time in 16 years in high-scoring thriller


CW / David Gray

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) attempts to evade pressure in the Crimson Tide’s 52-49 loss to the Tennessee Volunteers on Oct. 15 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

Austin Hannon | @austin_hannon1, Sports Editor

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The streak has come to an end.  

For the first time since 2006, the smoke filling the air at Neyland Stadium was orange rather than crimson. 

After 16 long, hard years, the Tennessee Volunteers were finally able to take down Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, winning 52-49 on a game-winning field goal by Chase McGrath. 

The 52 points are the most the Crimson Tide has allowed under Saban. 

The kick was set up after the Volunteers (6-0) picked up 45 yards on two plays in just seven seconds. Alabama kicker Will Reichard had an opportunity to put the Crimson Tide (6-1) ahead with 15 seconds on the clock on the drive prior, but missed a 50-yard attempt. 

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Saban said. “Way too many penalties, did too many things to help them, gave up explosive plays. Got to give them a lot of credit. They did a really nice job with their offense, based on what we were trying to do on defense. We didn’t execute well enough.”

It was truly the “Game of the Year” in college football thus far this season. Tennessee jumped out to a 28-10 lead before Alabama fought back to take the lead at 35-34 late in the third quarter.

“Got to give our players a lot of credit for fighting back and getting back in the game and having an opportunity to win at the end,” Saban said.

“We changed the momentum of the game several times,” Saban said. “We just weren’t able to take advantage of it [by] getting enough stops on defense.”

In his return from injury, quarterback Bryce Young was sensational, throwing for 455 yards and two touchdowns. Play after play, drive after drive, Young put the team on his back. He spread the ball all over the field, completing 35 passes to nine different receivers — his favorite being freshman Kobe Prentice, who hauled in nine receptions. Cameron Latu and Ja’Corey Brooks were of help as well, combining for 169 yards and two scores. 

“I thought Bryce played really well in the game,” Saban said. “He made a lot of plays offensively. [We] just didn’t get it done on defense when we had the chance.”

Running back Jahmyr Gibbs did everything in his power to extend the winning streak over Tennessee to 16 games. Gibbs rushed the ball 24 times for 103 yards and three touchdowns, while picking up five receptions for 48 yards. Gibbs has entered his name into Heisman talk over the last few weeks, and he certainly didn’t disappoint Saturday night.

For football fans that love scoring, Saturday night’s game was a dream. Young and Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker went back and forth at each other the entirety of the game. When all was said and done, there was a total of 1,136 yards combined from the two teams. 

There were plenty of reasons Alabama was unable to stay undefeated. Penalties severely hurt the Crimson Tide. A school-record 17 flags gave Tennessee 130 penalty yards. The Alabama secondary was nonexistent for much of the game, allowing Hooker 385 yards and five touchdowns — all of which were caught by Jalin Hyatt. Hyatt finished the game with six catches for 207 yards — and a school-record five touchdown grabs. 

“I don’t think the no-huddle offense was the issue for us,” Saban said. “I think it was covering their receivers.” 

It’s not all on the secondary, though. When you give a quarterback time to throw, he will have success more often than not. After having three sacks and 14 quarterback hurries against Texas A&M last week, the Crimson Tide pass rush didn’t have an impact at all against the Volunteers’ offensive line. Alabama recorded just one sack — not hurrying Hooker once. 

Now with a loss under its belt, the Crimson Tide has no room for error the rest of the season if it hopes of winning national championship No. 19 in 2022-23. 

“The big thing our players need to do is learn from this experience,” Saban said. “[We need to] have more respect for playing with discipline so we don’t have all these penalties. I also told the players we can accomplish every goal we had starting at the beginning of the season. There’s no room for error in the [SEC] West. But if we win out in the West, we can win the West and still have a chance to go to the SEC Championship game. You’ve got to learn from these experiences, you’ve got to learn from these mistakes. You never improve if you can’t learn from your mistakes.” 

Alabama will look to climb back up the hill beginning next week in its homecoming game against No. 16 Mississippi State (5-1). The secondary will get an immediate chance for redemption against the pass-heavy Bulldogs led by head coach Mike Leach and quarterback Will Rogers. 

Kickoff at Bryant-Denny Stadium is set for 6 p.m. CT on ESPN.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]