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Remembering the third saturday in October one year later
On October 21, 2023, the Volunteers are heading to Tuscaloosa for a rematch with the Crimson Tide. Tennessee is looking to win back-to-back games against Alabama which has not happened since 2004, and Tennessee has not won in Tuscaloosa since 2003. After Tennessee ended Alabama’s fifteen year winning streak, the Crimson Tide will be out for blood. In anticipation for this head-to-head, let's recap last year’s historic game.
10:18 in First Quarter
A hush fell over Neyland Stadium, the words “quiet offense at work” bounced across the jumbotron. The student section held its breath, waiting in anticipation to see if Tennessee would score. Jabari Small bulldozes past the Alabama defensive line and into the endzone. His touchdown cuts through the silence like a knife.
The TV cameras show a wide-angle view of a sold-out Neyland Stadium, a sea of orange with little splotches of an offensive crimson, while the noise meter taunts the fans saying, “Not Loud Enough!”
Jackson Rouse, a University of Tennessee Law student, says this touchdown was a positive omen.
“It gave me hope that this might not be the year we lose again,”Rouse said.
Tennessee leads over Alabama 0-7.
7:59 in First Quarter
Alabama quickly responds by scoring a touchdown. Delaney Reilly, a UTK senior at the time of this game, when asked how she was feeling after Alabama scored so quickly.
“Honestly, this is a little harsh to Tennessee football, but I felt like they were going to choke,” Reilly said.
The game is now tied at 7-7.
6:44 First Quarter
A little less than a minute after Alabama’s touchdown, Tennessee quickly responds. Hendon Hooker throws the ball to Jalin Hyatt and Hyatt, making it look easy, quickly runs into the endzone. Rouse said he wasn’t surprised by how quickly the game was going.
“It was going to be an offensive battle,” Rouse said.
Tennessee leads 7-14.
3:59 First Quarter
Jalin Hyatt scores another touchdown giving Tennessee a thirteen-point lead over Alabama. The score is now 7-21.
14:07 Second Quarter
Alabama settles for a twenty-one-yard field goal to cut the Tennessee lead to eleven points. Tennessee is now leading 10-21.
11:41 Second Quarter
Alabama has a botched punt return, giving Tennessee the ball and putting the Vols in easy touchdown range. Tennessee’s Princeton Fant, bulls his way into the endzone, giving Tennessee an eighteen-point lead.
“The stadium was electric and everybody was getting rowdy, and everybody was screaming,” Reilly said.
Tennessee is leading Alabama 10-28.
6:49 Second Quarter
Nick Saban’s crimson face keeps appearing on the jumbotron as he yells out to his players on the field; whatever he says works like magic because Ja’Corey Brooks makes an awesome play and runs into the endzone giving Alabama their second touchdown of the game.
Tennessee is still leading; the score is 17-28.
11:18 Third Quarter
Jahmyr Gibbs runs straight through the Tennessee defense, leaving the defenders on the ground behind him. Alabama goes for two points - tying the game for the first time. The score is 28-28.
Tennessee has not scored since the second quarter, and they just let their eighteen-point lead slip through their fingers. The words “GET LOUD” keep bouncing across the jumbotron. Reilly describes her feelings at that moment.
“Scared, I was very scared because what’s going to happen, it’s a coin toss at this point, honestly,” Reilly said.
4:27 Third Quarter
After trailing Tennessee the whole game, Alabama scores and takes the lead for the first time. Despite Alabama’s lead, Rouse describes the environment in Neyland.
“It was the most electric sporting event I’ve ever been to. I was at the St. Louis Cardinals game when they won the World Series, and it doesn’t even compare,” Rouse said.
Alabama is leading Tennessee 35-34.
14:14 Fourth Quarter
Tennessee snaps the ball; Hooker quickly throws the ball to Hyatt and gives Tennessee a 78-yard touchdown. Tennessee goes for two - Hooker sends a shovel pass Fant’s way and he has it!
Fans start singing “Rocky Top” at the top of their lungs. Tennessee leads Alabama 35-42.
8:38 Fourth Quarter
Alabama marches seventy-five yards, down the field, for a touchdown. Alabama ties the game, the score is 42-42.
7:55 Fourth Quarter
Tennessee snaps the ball, but Hooker quickly fumbles it, Alabama grabs the ball and gets a 10-yard scoop-and-score. Alabama takes the lead making the score 49-42.
3:31 Fourth Quarter
Hooker throws it to Hyatt, who catches an easy thirteen-yard pass, getting his fifth touchdown of the game. Tennessee gets the extra point tying the game at 49-49.
0:21 Fourth Quarter
After Bryce Young forces his offense downfield and into field goal range, Will Reichard jogs onto the field in his crimson jersey and misses the fifty-yard kick, pushing it to the right. The game remains tied at 49-49.
0:02 Fourth Quarter
The Vols have gotten the ball within field-goal range. Only forty yards separate Tennessee from ending Alabama’s fifteen-year winning streak. Chase McGrath takes the kick; fans hold their breath as the ball wobbles through the uprights. Tennessee has won the game!
A swarm of orange pours onto the field, while the song “Dixieland Delight” plays loudly overhead.
“The moment was awesome, I will probably never experience anything like it again, I will be able to share those memories with my kids, rushing the field, touching the goalpost and just being there,” Rouse said.
The TV cameras slowly pan away from the stadium, showing thousands of fans on the field celebrating, while cigar smoke engulfs Neyland Stadium in a warm hug. The final score is 49-52.