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Vols 'On Different Pages' With Late Game Interception Against Alabama

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Despite what the 52-24 scoreboard in favor of the Alabama Crimson Tide might indicate, Josh Heupel's Tennessee Volunteers were battling late in the second half of the Third Saturday of October and were marching towards making it another one-score game before an untimely interception on a pass from Hendon Hooker to JaVonta Payton derailed those plans. While the throw from Hooker looked uncanny from his usual precision, as it drilled an Alabama defender in the chest, the ball was actually where Hooker wanted it, but JaVonta Payton was not. In the post-game press conference, Josh Heupel and Hooker both discussed the miscue.

Tennessee failed to take advantage of other opportunities earlier in the game, but the interception sealed the win for Alabama. However, Heupel has received a heap of praise from fans and national media because of the team's will to fight, and he echoed that.

"I thought Hendon battled all night long," Heupel said about Hooker's overall performance. "I thought he was really efficient for the most part during the football game. Some of the early drives we got stopped in short-yardage situations where the ball wasn't necessarily in his hands. I thought he continued to fight and play in the second half. Had some big-time plays. Didn't get enough going in the run game during the course of the early part of the game, and that's a big part of why the game played out the way that it did.

"On that play, in particular, those guys were just on different pages there," Heupel said about the interception.

"Yeah, two different pages, I read the coverage one way, and he read it another," Hooker said in the post game. "Can't have those turnovers on my part. Just have to play better."

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Payton's route was an option route which gives him the opportunity to read the coverage and defender and either break in, out, or sit down. The break was designed to be right at the sticks and when he had the two Alabama defenders split, Hooker unleashed it, undoubtedly believing that Payton would turn around and snag it for an easy first down.

The interception marked Hooker's first since week two against Pitt, and while it marred the ending, Hooker was still extremely efficient behind center for Tennessee tonight.

Hooker finished the game 19-28 for 282 yards and three touchdowns along with the one interception.

Tennessee now has a bye week ahead of Kentucky, which should allow them to get healthy, and Josh Heupel reiterated the importance of that.

"Let's start by trying to get some guys healthy," Heupel said about the plan for the bye week. "We're at that point in the season, and you guys know, a big part of it is us getting healthy here this week. At the same time, we've got a third of our season that's left here, the back four games. Making a decision that, collectively as a group and individually, that we're going to go fight and strain to make the changes that we need to, to play our absolute best football. We play really hard. We have to play smarter. Our margins aren't wide enough for us to not play a little bit smarter than we did tonight."

Tennessee's next game will be on November 6th against Kentucky in Lexington.