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Halftime Thoughts: Tennessee-Alabama

At the half in Tuscaloosa, Tennessee trails No. 4 Alabama 21-14. 

While the Vols have played well, there are still several plays they'd like to have back. Here are my halftime thoughts from Bryant-Denny Stadium:

Missed Opportunities, False Starts Galore

Offense, defense, you name it -- Tennessee has missed more than its fair share of chances against the Tide. 

Bryce Young has dodged several tackles, and he connected three times on third down to move the chains during Alabama's first scoring drive of the game. 

He also eluded the Vols on a rushing touchdown in the second quarter to tie the score at 14 before getting a first down and then connecting with John Metchie for a 21-14 lead late in the first half. 

Despite Young's athleticism, UT has gotten to him for two sacks so far tonight. One came from Byron Young, the next from Roman Harrison, who was injured on the play.

The Vols have also missed chances on offense, most notably when two penalties contributed to a three-and-out after Tennessee had gotten the ball back when Kamal Hadden forced a fumble from Jameson Williams. 

Tennessee's final drive of the half also began with a false start, and another put the Vols behind the chains once more.

Jeremy Banks added a needless defensive penalty in the final minute of the first half, as he gave Alabama 15 yards on a personal foul hit out-of-bounds. 

Altogether, Tennessee has managed nine penalties for 74 yards lost in the first 30 minutes of action. 

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Hadden Stepping Up Early

As mentioned, Hadden has looked great in his first start. He leads the team with six total tackles, four solo, and the forced fumble. 

Willie Martinez mentioned this week that Hadden has been "a work in progress" after overcoming an injury setback, and he added that Hadden has given the Vols "quality reps."

Hooker Looking Healthy, Finding Playmakers

Hendon Hooker finished the first quarter 8-of-10 for 144 yards and two touchdowns. That's a strong start against a vaunted Alabama defense, but it's especially impressive given Hooker's questionable status this week after he left the Ole Miss game with an injury. 

The first strike went to Velus Jones Jr., while Hooker continued his connection to JaVonta Payton for a 57-yard strike that put the Vols up 14-7. 

At the break, the Virginia Tech transfer is 11-of-15 for 171 yards and two scores. 

No Rushing Attack

Despite the strong start through the air, UT has struggled heavily on the ground -- an aspect that is essential to taking down the Tide. 

During the first 30 minutes, Tennessee had three rushing attempts for a total of 21 yards. Tiyon Evans has carried three times for 21 yards, Jabari Small has rushed five times for six yards, and Hooker has taken the ball three times for four yards. 

As mentioned, Alabama roared back to overcome Hooker's start and UT's missed chances to reclaim the lead at the half. We'll bring more updates during the final minutes of action in Tuscaloosa.