BamaInsider - Bryce Young's big night leads No. 4 Alabama past Tennessee
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Bryce Young's big night leads No. 4 Alabama past Tennessee

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — At times Saturday night, the SEC’s most lopsided rivalry looked as though it might finally be reversed.

A stunned Bryant-Denny Stadium watched as No. 4 Alabama trailed Tennessee by a touchdown at the end of the first quarter. The angst amplified as a Volunteer team that entered the night as a more than a three-touchdown underdog hung with the Crimson Tide into the fourth quarter.

Led by a valiant effort from Bryce Young, Alabama was able to avoid the upset, pulling away for a 52-24 victory while extending its winning streak to 15 against its rivals to the north. The sophomore quarterback completed 31 of 43 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns while adding 42 yards and two more scores on the ground, allowing the Tide to end the night with victory cigars instead of seeing its national title hopes snuffed out.

A 57-yard touchdown pass from Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker to receiver JaVonta Payton late in the first quarter gave the Volunteers their first lead over Alabama since 2015. The score was spurred on by a roughing-the-kicker penalty two plays earlier as Tide outside linebacker Chris Braswell barreled into Tennessee punter Paxton Brooks on fourth-and-23, giving the Volunteers a first down.

Before that, a blown coverage from Alabama safety Daniel Wright resulted in a 39-yard gain on Tennessee’s second offensive possession, ultimately setting up the Volunteers’ first score of the game as Hooker connected with Velus Jones Jr. for an 8-yard touchdown pass. Tennessee piled up 150 yards in the first quarter, 144 of it coming through the air.

Alabama faced more frustration early in the second quarter as Jameson Williams fumbled the ball deep in Tennessee territory allowing the Volunteers to take over at their own 9-yard line. However, Young was able to rally the Tide from there.

The Heisman Trophy contender completed a combined 7 of 9 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown while adding 16 yards and a score over Alabama’s next two possessions, allowing the Tide to retake the lead by halftime.

After allowing Tennessee to take the lead, Alabama’s defense woke up, forcing three-and-outs on four of the Volunteers’ next five possessions. Tennessee was able to trim Alabama’s lead to 21-17 on a 32-yard field goal following a blocked punt in the third quarter.

However, that’s as close as they would get as Young led the Tide to a field goal on its next possession before extending the lead to double digits on a 6-yard touchdown run to open the fourth quarter. The score came on a third-and-four as the quarterback tucked the ball, juking a defender at the 5-yard line before diving into the end zone.

Tennessee answered back as Hooker found Cedric Tillman for a 70-yard touchdown on the Volunteers’ ensuing possession. However, Young once again answered the call, connecting with Williams for a 65-yard gain on third down to set up a 15-yard touchdown run from Brian Robinson Jr. a play later.

Alabama locked up the victory for good as cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis picked off Hooker before returning the ball to the Tennessee 18-yard line. From there, the Tide extended its lead to three scores as Robinson added his third touchdown of the night five plays later. The senior back finished the night with 107 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. He also had four receptions for 16 yards.

John Metchie III led Alabama with 11 receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns while Williams tallied a team-high 123 yards through the air on six catches.

Young helped Alabama convert 15 of 20 third-down opportunities, completing 9 of 12 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown while adding five rushing attempts for 41 yards and a pair of scores on the down. Meanwhile, Tennessee converted just 2 of 13 third-down attempts.

Hooker, who was questionable for the game after sustaining a lower-body injury last week against Ole Miss, completed 19 of 28 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns with an interception on the night.

Alabama outgained Tennessee 574-346. The Volunteers were flagged 12 times for 98 yards while the Tide committed four penalties resulting in 30 yards.

Alabama will have an open week next week before hosting LSU on Nov. 6.

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) carries the ball in for a touchdown during the first half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Photo | USA TODAY
Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) carries the ball in for a touchdown during the first half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Photo | USA TODAY