Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Tennessee football: Rapid reactions from Vols’ 52-49 win vs. Alabama

Jalin Hyatt is a baller for Tennessee football

There’s not much more you can say about Jalin Hyatt that wasn’t already on display in the game. Without Cedric Tillman, Hyatt stepped up for Tennessee football in a historic way, catching six passes for 207 yards and five touchdowns.

The only other time Tennessee football beat Nick Saban was 2001, when Kelley Washington had 256 yards receiving, a school-record. Hyatt came back with a school-record five receiving touchdowns in this one. Hendon Hooker and Ramel Keyton deserve praise for their play, but Hyatt was the star.

Redemption for Chase McGrath

Remember in 2004 when James Wilhoit missed the extra point against the Florida Gators and came back to nail a 50-yarder to win? It wasn’t quite that here, but Chase McGrath certainly came close.

McGrath missed an extra point earlier after the Vols built a 34-28 lead, but he responded with a 40-yard field goal knuckleball to win the game. In 2009, Daniel Lincoln had a potential game-winner blocked to beat Alabama. McGrath finally exorcised that demon facing the Vols.

Play-calling won the game for the Vols

It’s underrated just how great the play-calling was for Tennessee. Jalin Hyatt had at least two touchdown passes that were perfectly designed calls. Josh Heupel and Alex Golesh were leaps and bounds ahead of Pete Golding when the Vols were on offense.

Honestly, Tim Banks was the same on defense. Alabama was only in this game because Bryce Young was so amazing, but Banks consistently dialed up perfect blitz packages and made sure he was hit all night. That’s why Alabama only converted one third down of eight yards or more, and it made a difference in the end.

Game was won in the trenches

An underrated part of this game is the fact that Tennessee football won the line of scrimmage on both sides. Honestly, nobody would have predicted that going in. The Vols had more rushing yards than Alabama, but it doesn’t even stop there.

UT averaged one more yard per carry. Both teams each had a sack, but the Vols also had nine hurries on Young, and while part of that was because of Banks’ play-calling, another part was just great defensive line play. Will Anderson Jr. had one solo tackle. That’s all you need to know.

Coverage still has issues, but it’s understandable

Imagine playing a game without your top two cornerbacks and one of your safeties when you’re already weak at defensive back. That’s where Tennessee football was in this game. Jaylen McCollough, Kamal Hadden and Warren Burrell were out, and then Christian Charles got hurt in this game.

This is part of the reason Young was so effective on the fly. The Vols often just couldn’t cover Alabama receivers, and they often made bad plays in coverage. However, they beat Alabama, so if this is the worst thing given how hurt they are, it’s not a big deal.

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