In an effort to generate some positive energy before Saturday's big game, we thought it would be fun to review Arkansas' wins over Tennessee. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks and their fans - but fortunately for the purposes of this post - there are only three of them. Each was truly one to savor, so let the savoring begin:
1. Arkansas 25, Tennessee 24 - Knoxville, Oct. 10, 1992. This is, without a doubt, my favorite all-time Razorback football victory, in large part because it was so shocking - and also because I was there. I was in college in Memphis at the time, and a number of friends thought I was nuts to make the six-hour drive to Knoxville. After all, Arkansas came into the game with an interim head coach, a 1-4 record that included a season-opening loss to The Citadel (that loss being the reason there was an interim head coach) and a freshman quarterback (Barry Lunney Jr.) making the first start of his career. The Vols, on the other hand, were ranked fourth in the country and had a 5-0 record.
My decision to go to Knoxville wasn't looking so great with about two and a half minutes left in the game. Tennessee had a 24-16 lead and appeared to have victory well in hand. Then, Orlando Watters returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown. After a failed attempt at a two-point conversion, the Hogs recovered an onside kick and gobbled up enough yardage for Todd Wright to attempt a last-second 41-yard field goal.
Johnny Majors, then the coach of the Vols, called a timeout or two to try and ice the kicker. During one of the timeouts, a UT fan sitting one row behind me and quaking with a whiskey-fueled rage turned to the woman with him and growled, "I can't believe we're about to lose to this chickenshit team!"
Seconds later, Wright's kick was good, just barely if I recall correctly, and that "chickenshit team" had pulled off a truly stunning upset.
2. Arkansas 31, Tennessee 14 - Fayetteville, Nov. 11, 2006. This is my second-favorite of the three wins over UT. Arkansas came into the game ranked No. 11, while Tennessee was No. 13 - and we crushed them. This victory is special for many reasons. One, because it was so convincing. Two, it placed Darren McFadden firmly in the Heisman discussion. And three, it put the Razorbacks in the national championship picture. Check out this quote from The Associated Press' game story: "Suddenly, a spot in the national championship game for Arkansas doesn't sound far fetched." Knowing how things have unfolded since then, reading that sentence is bittersweet.
In his excellent recap of the game and the surrounding pomp and circumstance, The Hog Blogger called the day "easily the best of Houston Nutt's tenure here." I would second that emotion.
3. Arkansas 28, Tennessee 24 - Fayetteville, Nov. 13, 1999. Clint Stoerner giveth - and Clint Stoerner taketh away. In 1998, the Razorback quarterback's infamous fumble paved the way for UT's national championship. One year later, his 28-yard TD pass to Anthony Lucas with just under four minutes to play ended the No. 3 Vols' hopes for a repeat.
I don't think I've ever felt more badly for an athlete than I did for Stoerner after his fumble in 1998 (possible exception: Chris Webber, after he called a timeout his team didn't have in the waning moments of the 1993 NCAA basketball title game). To see him get a significant slice of revenge one year later was pretty darn cool.
"Clint Stoerner came back," Nutt told the media after the game. "He's lived with last year's game for a year, even though it wasn't his fault. He is a man. He never backed down from accepting blame. This victory has to be very sweet to him."
Here's hoping victory no. 4 is right around the corner.
(Game details from The Associated Press and USAToday.com)