KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The curse is broken, Tennessee not only won with legendary quarterback Peyton Manning in attendance, but they also snapped a 15-game losing streak to Alabama in the process.
Chase McGrath split the uprights with a 40-yard field goal as the clock struck zero to secure a 52-49 victory in front of a raucous sold out Neyland Stadium.
The crowd ahead of the game was impressive, with fans creating a sea of orange around town and in the stadium. A reported 102,000 fans were in the stands.
The 52 points the Vols scored is the most Alabama has given up since 1907 against Sewanee.
The Vols took the lead early in the first quarter after Hendon Hooker found Jacob Wareen over the middle to put the Vols in position to score. A few plays later Jabari Small would take a handoff up the middle to make it 7-0 after a good PAT.
The following drive Bryce Young would make a couple of key throws of 27 and 33 yards to put the tide in position to score. They did just that on a Jamhyr Gibbs rushing touchdown with eight minutes remaining in the quarter.
The next drive, Ramel Keyton drew a pass interference call then caught a 10 yard catch on a slant to put the Vols in Tide territory. A few plays later, Jalin Hyatt split the Alabama defense wide open down the seam and Hooker found him on a beautiful toss to put the Vols up 13-7. The second Tennessee touchdown marked Hooker tying Heath Shuler’s school record of 18 consecutive games with a passing touchdown.
Hyatt set a new school record for receiving touchdowns with five. He finished the game with six catches for 207 yards and those five touchdowns.
A strong defensive series for the Vols along with a few mistakes by Alabama resulted in a short field for Hooker to work with. A Keyton slant route along with a couple of Small carries set up Hyatt to score a second time putting the Vols up 21-7.
An ensuing drive propelled by outstanding plays from Gibbs resulted in an Alabama field goal after a strong goal line stand from the Vols defense. 21-10.
With just over 12 minutes remaining in the half, Tennessee recovered a muffed punt. After another great throw and catch from Hooker to Keyton, Princeton Fant took a handoff out of a jumbo package and plunged into the end zone to put the Vols up 28-10.
Alabama’s resilience showed on the following possession as Young and company put together a long drive resulting in a passing touchdown to make it 28-17.
With under three minutes left in the half, Vols would turn the ball over on downs and Young again went to work, methodically reading the defense and delivering a couple of chunk-play passes to put the Tide in scoring position. The Vols secondary hung tough, forcing Alabama to settle for a field goal with 41 seconds remaining in the half.
With three seconds left in the half, the Vols brought in Joe Milton at QB to heave a hail-Mary which was tipped around and almost caught by Bru McCoy.
The second half started off badly for the Vols as they failed to convert on fourth and short at midfield. Bama was quick to capitalize with a Gibbs rushing TD followed up by a two point conversion to even the score at 28.
Tennessee was quick to respond as Hooker found Hyatt on a bomb down the sideline for a touchdown. A missed extra point left the Vols in front 34-28.
The next drive, Young showed off why he has a Heisman trophy already, making a series of impressive passes to put the Tide at the 4 yard line with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. Gibbs would score and the Tide would take the lead 35-34.
The next drive, Hooker threw an interception on a play where he took a hard shot from a blitzing defender. That was his first of the season.
Hooker immediately redeemed himself by finding Hyatt on 70 plus yard touchdown. This broke the single game record for receiving touchdowns by a Vol. Fant caught a shovel pass from Hooker to convert the two point attempt putting the Vols back on top 42-35.
Hooker added to his Heisman campaign finishing 21/30 for 385 yards and five touchdowns.
The Vols were poised for a big stop in the fourth quarter after an Omari Thomas sack on Young left Alabama with a long yardage situation. Young would show his stuff once again finding a receiver to convert a crucial first down. Alabama would score on a hard-nosed 4th and goal to even the score once again.
A costly fumble on a handoff was returned for a touchdown to put the Tide up 49-42 with just under eight minutes to play.
With just under four minutes to play the Vols’ situation looked dire as an apparent interception returned 80 yards looked to put the Tide in position to win, however a pass interference call allowed Hooker another chance. He took full advantage finding Hyatt for yet another score to tie the game.
📧 Have breaking come to you: Subscribe to News 2 email alerts →
With under a minute left in regulation Alabama was faced with a crucial third down at the Tennessee 32 yard line, Young missed his target leaving Alabama with a 50 yard field goal. They missed it, leaving Hooker with the ball and 15 seconds left on the clock.
Hooker completed passes of 18 yards to Keyton and 27 yards to McCoy to set up McGrath’s game winning field goal. That final kick sent Tennessee to victory over Alabama for the first time in 15 years, 52-49, maintaining their undefeated season!
Tennessee fans poured onto the field and ripped down both field goal posts in celebration. Both Manning and Vols head coach Josh Heupel were seen enjoying victory cigars with fans after the game.
EDITORS NOTE: This story has been updated with new information.