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Tennessee football: Chase MacGrath’s nerves of steel make history

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There was every reason for Chase McGrath’s game-winning field goal not to happen. Tradition, pressure and even a possible tip were all lined up against him.

Still, he made it. The Vols won 52-49 over Alabama in one of the most memorable games in Tennessee football history.

“Honestly, it wasn’t my cleanest hit,” McGrath said.

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One would think nerves would have played a factor, especially with the game in the balance and the fact that McGrath actually missed an extra point earlier in the game.

“That’s something that really hasn’t ever happened to me,” the senior said of the miss in the third quarter. “Just wipe it. On to the next kick. I knew there was going to be another opportunity later in the game so I just tried to move on from that and focus for the next opportunity.”

McGrath did just that and instantly became a player that will live for decades in Tennessee football folklore. McGrath enjoyed the moment so much that he was still in full pads during the post-game press conference.

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“There’s a lot of stuff going on,” McGrath said when asked about his unusual garb.

“It’s amazing, especially with this fan base for all those years. For us to be able to come out with a win tonight and see everybody’s reaction, it’s a real blessing. It’s an awesome night.”

The game-winning kick looked as if it might have been tipped at the line. The Vols have been there before. Tennessee had a potential game-winning kick against Alabama blocked in 2009 and ended up losing the game. The was part of a painful run in which Tennessee hadn’t beaten Alabama since 2006.

“I don’t know if it was tipped,” McGrath said. “It may have been judging off of that ball flight.”

McGrath said he hasn’t kicked a game-wining field goal since he did so against Texas in 2017 as a freshman when he was kicking for Southern California. McGrath transferred to Tennessee before the 2021 season.

“I wanted to come here because of the tradition here, the fan base and especially with the coaching staff brought in,” McGrath said.

McGrath also came to Tennessee because of his former teammate, receiver Velus Jones, who also played at USC before transferring to Tennessee.

“We were really close,” McGrath said. “That was a big reason why I came and it was a seamless transition.”

Sure, just the way he planned it. Just like that game-winning kick that changed the course of the Tennessee-Alabama series forever despite all that was aligned against it, pretty seamless.

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