By 1998, Houston Nutt was well into his first season as the new Hog head coach. Having come off of two consecutive 4-7 seasons under Danny Ford, expectations were not very high for this team. But all would change during this season, when prior to November 14, 1998, the Hogs had gone 8-0. Now the #9 Hogs were scheduled to line up against the nation leading #1 Tennessee Volunteers under coach Phillip Fulmer and 106,365 screaming fans at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville for the game that has been listed as the "Greatest Two Minutes in Tennessee History". Of the 17 games between the Hogs and Volunteers, six have been determined by less than five points. The odds have been against the Razorbacks though, as the Hogs have only won four times and this game would not be one of the four.
The weather for the game was in the low to mid fifties with a wind at six mph out of the west southwest. There was a slight rain falling on the field as the game began. It had been only a week since Michigan State had defeated #1 Ohio State thrusting Tennessee into the top position. They would now meet the Hogs at Tennessee's house. It had been almost 30 years since two undefeated SEC teams had gone up against each other, and here they were in Knoxville with it all "on the line" for what might be the prelude to the national championship.
Wide receiver Anthony Lucas would have a stellar day as he would shred the Volunteer defense throughout the game. On the Hogs' first possession QB Clint Stoerner would throw a long bomb to Lucas putting the Hogs up 7-0. The first play of the second quarter saw Lucas once again throw a key block on Tennessee cornerback Dwayne Goodrich freeing Stoerner for 62 yards down the sideline and another Razorback touchdown.
Tennessee would finally score during the first half from a field goal midway through the second quarter making the score 14-3. The Hogs were not finished for the first half though as Stoerner found Lucas, once again this time, in the end zone for six more with 3:15 left on the clock. Arkansas 21, Tennessee 3. It was all going Arkansas' way. As the half neared a close, Tennessee would get a glimmer of hope as Volunteer quarterback Tee Martin threw a 36 yard pass to Peerless Price for six making the halftime score a little more respectable at Arkansas 21, and Tennessee 10.
"With what seemed like all 106,000 plus fans shouting "Block That Kick", it happened allowing Al Wilson to run the ball back 40 yards to the Hog 36 yard line before being tackled and forced out of bounds by Brandon Burlsworth in a touchdown saving effort."
Midway during the third quarter, quarterback Martin rolled out and kept the ball for the final four yards to tag on six more Tennessee points putting the Volunteers behind by only one touchdown 24-17.
As the game went into the fourth quarter, Volunteer field goal kicker Jeff Hall would further tighten the score by completing a field goal moving the score to 24-20. GAME ON!
After trading punts, the Hogs were able to drive down to the Tennessee 16 where the Volunteer defense was finally able to stop the Razorbacks forcing a field goal that would have put the Hogs up by seven. With what seemed like all 106,000 plus fans shouting "Block That Kick", it happened allowing Al Wilson to run the ball back 40 yards to the Hog 36 yard line before being tackled and forced out of bounds by Brandon Burlsworth in a touchdown saving effort.
At this point, the defense strengthened and forced Tennessee to punt without getting a score from the blocked Hog field goal. Not able to mount a drive, the Hogs were forced to punt. Then the bottom fell out. With 2:56 to play, a high snap forced punter Chris Akin to kick the ball from the 15 yard line back and out of the end zone. The ensuing safety call brought the Volunteers to 24-22. Tennessee would now receive the ball from a free kick while finding themselves now behind by only two points.
"As Stoerner is rolling, his leg collides with that of guard Burlsworth and he begins to stumble. As he tries to regain his balance and prevent falling to the ground, the ball slips loose and is recovered by Volunteer Billy Ratliff at their own 43 yard line."
The Hogs needed the time afforded by a first down to win the game and everyone in the stadium knew it. After a short gain on first down, Tennessee called the first of their last two timeouts. Coming out of the timeout, Stoerner began his cadence. The ball is snapped, and the defensive line puts on a tremendous push. Pressure applied by Volunteer defensive lineman Billy Ratliff as he pounded through a gap caused Burlsworth to take more depth than normal in protecting Stoerner. As Stoerner is rolling, his leg collides with Burlsworth's left calf and he begins to stumble. As he tries to regain his balance and prevent falling to the ground, Stoerner extends his arm containing the ball. As he comes to a stop, Ratliff falls on and recovers the ball at their own 43 yard line. Football is a game of inches, life is a culmination of moments.
In a split moment, the euphoria and excitement of the Hog fans turned into disbelief. "Did what I saw really happen?" The blood seemed to drain from the bodies of the Razorbacks in attendance as they slowly sat back into their seats for the final couple of minutes of the game. Rocky Top never seemed louder. Orange seemed to be everywhere and brought back memories of the ol' Texas days of the SWC.
As the rain plummeted on the helmets of a tired and spent Razorback team that had given its all throughout the whole game, the Tennessee team had found new fire in its belly. The Volunteers drove five plays and finished out the game on the back of Travis Henry as they scored their last touchdown with only 31 seconds left in the game. Final score Arkansas 24, Tennessee 28.
The loss wasn't due to a high snap, a blocked field goal, or an untimely fumble, but came as one of the greatest games played against the #1 team in the nation by some of the greatest players in Hog football history. After all it is a team sport. You win as a team, and you lose as a team. Victory had been snatched in the last few seconds of the game. It was a hard game to lose. What more can be said. The Hogs went 9-3-0 that year and ended with a share of the SEC West Division and a #16 rating at the end of the season. Not bad for a team picked to be last in the West.
Tennessee went on to win the National Championship, but they would never forget how they barely escaped in the game on November 14,1998.
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