No. 6 Tennessee snaps losing streak to Nick Saban, takes down No. 3 Alabama on last-second field goal

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As fans streamed into Neyland Stadium before the biggest game of the college football season, there was a palpable belief that this would be the year Tennessee finally knocked Nick Saban and Alabama from its high horse. 

Since Saban took over Alabama in 2007, the Crimson Tide have gone on a run rarely seen in sports, winning eight SEC championships, six national championships, and never losing to the Tennessee Vols. 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban looks toward the Texas A&M side in warmups before an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban looks toward the Texas A&M side in warmups before an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. 
(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

In 15 tries against Saban, Tennessee has not managed one win, frustrating a fanbase that became accustomed to winning in the 1990’s. 

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The wait is over. 

No. 6 Tennessee beat No. 3 Alabama 52-49 Saturday at Neyland Stadium in what may go down as the game of the century. 

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On a last-second, 40-yard field by Chase McGrath, Tennessee exorcised its demons against Saban as Neyland Stadium emptied onto the field. 

After a missed 50-yard field goal by Alabama kicker Will Reichard, Tennessee got the ball back with 15 seconds at their own 32-yard line. Two completions by Hooker, including the second for 27 yards to Bru McCoy, got Tennessee into field goal range. 

Hendon Hooker #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks to throw against the Florida Gators at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2022 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won the game 38-33. 

Hendon Hooker #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks to throw against the Florida Gators at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2022 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won the game 38-33. 
(Donald Page/Getty Images)

It was a back and forth affair that saw Tennessee head into halftime with a 28-20 lead. But Alabama took the lead with 4:27 left in the third quarter before a flurry of plays in the fourth quarter decided the game. 

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Led by Heisman-hopeful Hendon Hooker, who threw for 385 yards and five touchdowns, the Tennessee offense got going early, scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions. The offense – No. 1 in the country in yards per game heading into Week 7 – moved quickly and efficiently, stunning an Alabama defense not used to allowing teams into the end zone. 

Tennessee place kicker Chase McGrath (40) readies to kick a last-second field goal as holder Paxton Brooks (37) waits to snap during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 52-49. 

Tennessee place kicker Chase McGrath (40) readies to kick a last-second field goal as holder Paxton Brooks (37) waits to snap during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 52-49. 
(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

In a very unlike-Saban fashion, the Crimson Tide were their own worst enemies, committing seven penalties in the first quarter and inexplicably muffing a punt in the second quarter after getting their first stop of the ballgame. 

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Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young returned from injury and was spectacular, buying time with his legs on multiple plays. He finished the game 35-52 for 455 yards and two touchdowns while running back Jahmyr Gibbs had 103 yards and three touchdowns on the day. 

But Tennessee answered Alabama at every turn, with wide receiver Jalin Hyatt setting a school record with five receiving touchdowns, catching six passes for 207 yards. 

The Vols fell behind 49-42 with 7:49 to play in the fourth quarter on a fumble by Hooker returned for an 11-yard touchdown. Tennessee responded by driving 75 yards in 4:23 for a touchdown of their own to tie the game at 49-49. 

Alabama was called for a pass interference penalty in the endzone on fourth-and-five. 

Tennessee moves to 6-0 on the season while Alabama drops to 6-1. 

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