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Throwback Thursday: Arkansas vs Tennessee 1992

Remember that time Arkansas desperately needed a punt return touchdown, onside kick recovery, and a 41-yard field goal in the last few minutes of a game to knock off the #4 team in the nation on the road? Hard to believe right now but it actually happened once.

I was born in Arkansas and blessed to have good parents, so I have a natural hatred for Texas. However, the first program I grew to have a hatred for because of personal game experiences was Tennessee.

And it wasn't just because of 1998, though that certainly solidified it. I remember Peyton Manning converting 3rd down after 3rd down, and watching helplessly as the Vols staved off Arkansas' upset bid in Little Rock in 1997. It seemed like everybody hated Philip Fulmer, including the Tennessee fans who felt he stabbed Johnny Majors in the back.

Arkansas and LSU have a reputation now for playing classic weird games, but before that, Arkansas and Tennessee played each year from 1992 through 2002 in a similar string of memorable contests. The first of which came in 1992, Arkansas' inaugural SEC season. Tennessee was ranked 4th nationally with Heath Shular at quarterback. Fulmer hadn't yet completed his coup to take the head coaching position but that was only weeks away.

The Razorbacks, meanwhile, were 1-4 heading into Knoxville. They lost to their first two ranked SEC teams in Alabama and Georgia, but also had a pair of embarrassing losses to The Citadel and Memphis. They did manage to blow out South Carolina to win their first SEC game, but as you might remember, the Gamecocks pre-Holtz were really, really awful. Beating them was nothing to feel great about. Arkansas infamously fired Jack Crowe shortly after The Citadel loss was final, and the Hogs finished 1992 with Joe Kines as interim head coach.

Long story short, not a great start to the season for Arkansas.

Barry Lunney, Jr., Arkansas' current tight ends coach, was a freshman in 1992 and made his first career start that day in Knoxville. He was 13-for-19 that day, including a 50-yard touchdown pass to Ron Dickerson, Jr. in the first half as the Razorbacks built a 16-7 lead in the third quarter.

As with many Hog leads these days, that one wouldn't last. Tennessee scored two touchdowns and kicked a field goal to take a 24-16 lead in the fourth quarter. However, unlike the Razorbacks of recent years, that team still had a few plays to make late in the game.

Arkansas forced a punt with a few minutes to go and Orlando Watters returned the kick 71 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to two. The Hogs attempted a two-point conversion but Lunney was sacked.

That led to an onside kick attempt, and Arkansas' Darwin Ireland, amazingly, was able to recover the kick, giving the Hogs one last chance.

The Razorbacks made the most of their last chance. They drove down the field on a big pass to Tracy Caldwell to get into field goal range, and Todd Wright promptly nailed the 41-yard kick just inside the right upright as time expired.

This was easily the high point of Arkansas' 1992 season, in which the Hogs finished just 3-7-1. Tennessee finished 9-3 and ranked 12th.

Stephen Expat, who ran before I took it over, wrote about this game back in 2007:

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.