No. 6 Tennessee beats No. 3 Alabama 52-49 on late FG

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Chase McGrath made a 40-yard field goal as time expired to give No. 6 Tennessee a 52-49 victory over No. 3 Alabama.

As soon as the kick knuckle-balled through the uprights, some of the more than 100,000 fans stormed the field to celebrate the Volunteers (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) ending a 15-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide (6-1, 3-1). It didn’t take long for the goal posts to go down.

Hendon Hooker drove the Vols 45 yards in 18 seconds to set up the winner. Jalin Hyatt caught six passes for 207 yards and a Tennessee-record five touchdowns.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, a game-time decision because of a sprained right shoulder two weeks ago, completed 35 passes for 455 yards and two TDs.

Hyatt’s fifth TD catch tied it at 49 with 3:26 left in the fourth.

Young drove the Tide into the Tennessee territory in the final minute, but Alabama stalled at the 33 with three straight incomplete passes. Will Reichard’s 50-yard field goal attempt for the lead was wide way right.

With only 21 seconds left, overtime seemed likely, but Hooker wasn’t done and did the Heisman Trophy winner one better.

Hooker completed two passes for 45 yards, the second a 27-yard strike to Bru McCoy that gave Tennessee a chance for a makeable field goal – and McGrath came through to give the Volunteers its biggest victory in years.

A week after Alabama held Texas A&M out of the end zone on the last play of the game to dodge an upset, the Tide went down, losing to Tennessee for the first time under coach Nick Saban.

Tennessee’s up-tempo offense jumped out to a 21-7 first-quarter lead and led 28-20 at halftime. All four touchdown drives took over two minutes.

Young threw for 205 yards and a touchdown in the first half, while Hooker had 166 yards and two scores. Young wasn’t sacked, but was knocked down five times in the half.

Alabama fumbled Tennessee’s only punt. The Vols recovered and scored four plays later.

NOT AVAILABLE

Two key Tennessee players weren’t available. WR Cedric Tillman, who sustained a high ankle sprain against Akron, didn’t play despite having surgery to speed up the recovery process three weeks ago. This was his third missed game … S Jaylen McCollough, a four-year starter, was arrested for aggravated assault last weekend. He had played in all 41 games since his freshman year with 32 starts.

BY THE NUMBERS

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker has thrown a touchdown pass in 18 consecutive games, tying Heath Shuler’s school record (1992-94), … In one possession in its own territory, Alabama had holding, motion and delay penalties and a fumbled snap that Bryce Young recovered. The Vols got the ball on the Tide 35 and scored four plays later. … Hooker’s third-quarter interception was his first in 260 passes.

OLD SCHOOL

Tennessee had the ball on the Alabama 2. Breaking from the norm, Hooker went under center rather than the shotgun as the Vols were lined up in the I-formation. Fullback Princeton Fant, a tight end who was recruited as a running back, had his first carry since 2018 and scored.

THE TAKEAWAY

Alabama: Alabama didn’t have an answer for a Tennessee team that just wouldn’t give up. A late 49-42 lead slipped away.

Tennessee: This was a big jump forward for the program that Josh Heupel is building. Playing in a midseason game that has playoff implications is the first step toward getting a taste of the ultimate success.

UP NEXT

Alabama: Hosts Mississippi State.

Tennessee: Hosts Tennessee-Martin.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.