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REPORT CARD: Tennessee beats Alabama 52-49

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Tennessee beat Alabama 52-49 to mark the first time the Vols have beaten Alabama since 2006. Want drama? This game had plenty of it.

The Vols were able to hang onto a victory against the Crimson Tide thanks to a 40-yard field goal as time expired.

Here are the grades from Tennessee’s unforgettable victory:

Quarterbacks – A

Hendon Hooker certainly isn’t uncomfortable on the big stage. He’s a strong candidate to win The Heisman Trophy no matter that happens with C.J. Stroud at Ohio State. Saturday may have been the Heisman moment that Hooker needed to overcome Stroud, who has long been the favorite. Of course, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young will have something to say about the Heisman race as well, but Hooker just beat him head-to-head.

Hooker completed 21-of 30 passes for 385 yards and five touchdowns against Alabama while rushing for 56 yards on 14 carries. Hooker’s lone interception was caused by pressure. It was his first interception in 262 pass attempts.

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It’s unclear who was responsible for a fumbled exchange that led to an Alabama touchdown. That leads to…

Running Backs – A

The fumble was exactly what Alabama needed to win a game between two teams that were playing incredibly well. As it turned out, that miscue wasn’t enough. 

Aside from that miscommunication, Jabari Small once again proved how good he is with 12 carries and 53 yards and a touchdown. Small also caught two passes for 20 yards.

Jaylen Wright is a great compliment too Small. Wright ran for 71 yards on 12 carries. Tight end Princeton Fant, lined up as a fullback, showed off some power for a short touchdown run.

Receivers/Tight Ends – A+

Jalin Hyatt was simply incredible, turning in one of the most incredible performances in school history. Hyatt caught six passes for 207 yards and five touchdowns..

It was a record-setting performance that won’t be forgotten for years to come. 

Ramel Keyton caught five passes for 78 yards. Bru McCoy caught two passes for 38 yards. However, Hyatt was certainly the star. The Vols – again – seemed just fine with their most accomplished receiver, Cedric Tillman, still sidelined with an ankle injury.

Offensive Line – A

The Vols gave up just one sack to one of the best defensive fronts in college football. Tennessee ran the ball 39 times for 182 yards. Star linebacker/defensive end Will Anderson, Jr., had just three tackles. The Vols did allow the pressure that resulted in an interception. However, Tennessee has proven once again that it can hold its own against the best defenses in the nation, having done so against LSU and Pittsburgh previously this season.

Defensive Line – A+

Tennessee’s defensive line was active throughout the game even if it didn’t exactly show up on the stat sheet. The Vols needed to pressure Alabama considering Tennessee’s issues with its secondary this season. The Vols did just that. Omari Thomas registered the one sack after a clean Byron Young rush in the fourth quarter. The Vols allowed just 114 yards rushing on 31 attempts.

Linebackers – A

Like Tennessee’s defensive line, the Vols were able to provide consistent pressure on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. Tennessee’s linebackers were better in pass coverage than they’ve been in the past, but they were most often chasing Young with a stellar blitz package that continually applied pressure. The Vols registered nine quarterback hurries. Jeremy Banks led the way with six tackles.

Defensive Backs – B+

Tennessee’s secondary was bailed out by a couple of dropped passes in the first quarter. No one expected the Vols to go from “ugh” to great against Bama. The Vols didn’t have to. They were solid and got the job done with some big-time help from their defensive front counterparts. Safety Trevon Flowers was UT’s leading tackler with 11 takedowns.

Special Teams – A

The Vols recovered a bizarre fumble on a punt return in the second quarter. Credit Tennessee for being on the spot, but that was a fortunate break. Chase McGrath missed an extra point, but certainly made up for it with the game-winning field goal. Jimmy Holiday decided to try to return a kickoff that didn’t go anywhere and was compounded by a holding call that pinned the Vols deep.

Coaching – A+

Tennessee’s head coach Josh Heupel preaches about enjoying the pregame, but resetting once the game starts. The Vols did that. The Vols also answered a Bama surge in the third quarter when it looked like the game might slip away and held on when the game was in serious doubt with less than a minute left. That composure starts at the top.

UT’s blitz scheme was magnificent. Utilizing Fant near the goal line for his scoring run and a shovel-pass, touchdown reception was ingenious. No one saw that coming. Getting Hyatt open in a variety of ways was a sign of a high-level offensive coach, which Heupel is.

Overall – A+

Is there really any other grade that could be given out?

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