Sunday, March 26, 2023
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Jimmy Hyams: Jalin Hyatt wasn’t letting his prized football get away

The record-setting ball was about to be put back in play – until Jalin Hyatt intervened.

Hyatt had just caught his 14th touchdown pass of the season, breaking the Tennessee single-season record of 13 set by Marcus Nash in 1997.

The official was going to use the ball for the ensuing extra point during Tennessee’s dominating 44-6 victory over 17th ranked Kentucky.

Hyatt would have none of that.

“He (official) wasn’t getting that ball,’’ Hyatt said. “I made a little scene on the sideline.’’

Hyatt said he plans to give the ball to his parents.

It’s one of the few moments that Hyatt has focused attention on a personal accomplishment.

“I’m not trying to think about accolades,’’ Hyatt said. “We’re thinking about what we can do and where we can go (as a team).’’

He passed compliments to everyone else – quarterback Hendon Hooker, fellow receiver Cedric Tillman, the offensive line, the coaching staff.

Most of this season, the junior from Irmo, S.C., has deflected praise, saying he really hasn’t done anything yet.

He has now. And he has a souvenir ball to prove it.

Hyatt has been brilliant this season for the No. 3 Vols (8-0) as they prepare to face top-ranked Georgia in Athens, Ga. (UT is No. 1 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings while Georgia is third).

Hyatt, benched last year for dropping too many passes, had 11 scoring receptions in a 14-quarter stretch, establishing himself as arguably the best wideout in the country.

“I’m blessed to be a part of this team,’’ Hyatt said.

Hyatt has caught 45 passes for 907 yards (20.1 yards per catch). He has a nation’s-best nine receptions of at least 40 yards – more than 117 FBS schools and more than 11 SEC teams.

Hyatt is a primary reason Tennessee has a chance to upset the 8-point favorite Dawgs.

Tennessee’s quick-strike attack has registered at least one 45-yard pass in each game. It has completed 30 passes of at least 30 yards (Ohio State is next at 23). Six different Vols have a 50-yard reception. And UT has 19 pass plays of at least 40 yards.

Tennessee has the No. 1 scoring offense and total offense in the country.

Georgia is No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense and No. 4 in total defense.

It will be Tennessee’s high-flying offense against Georgia’s stifling defense.

If Tennessee springs the upset, it will have to hit several splash plays in the passing game.

If Georgia holds serve, it will have to limit big plays.

This is the first-ever meeting between Tennessee and Georgia when both are ranked in the top three in the nation.

“This is what you live for,’’ Hyatt said. “You live for games like this.’’

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