Classic SEC Football: Tennessee Tops Florida in Overtime in 1998

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterApril 13, 2012

Photo Credit: Gainesville Sun
Photo Credit: Gainesville Sun

Every Friday, The SEC Blog will feature one classic game from the storied history of SEC football.

Tennessee wrapped up the 1998 season in the desert in Phoenix, Ariz. by hoisting the crystal football after defeating Florida State to win the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. Had it not been for one missed field goal in September, the Volunteers may not have been in that position.

Florida entered Neyland Stadium on September 19, 1998 as the No. 2 team in the country, while the home-standing Volunteers were ranked sixth and had just escaped Syracuse with a 34-33 win. This Florida team featured quarterbacks Doug Johnson and Jesse Palmer, and was at the height of the Fun 'N Gun offense that then-head coach Steve Spurrier made famous in the 90s.

Tee Martin and the Volunteer offense couldn't get things cranked up, but four turnovers forced by the its defense—including two in the third quarter—kept the Vols in it. The two teams traded third quarter touchdowns, but a scoreless fourth quarter sent the game to overtime tied at 17.

Defense again ruled the day in overtime. The Vols went three-and-out in their first possession, but Jeff Hall nailed a 41-yard field goal to give the Vols the lead.

Florida got on Tennessee's doorstep, but the Vol defense rose up behind linebacker Al Wilson—who forced three fumbles on the night—and forced Gator kicker Collins Cooper to attempt a 32-yard field goal. Cooper narrowly missed it wide left, which set off a wild celebration on the field at Neyland Stadium.

The win broke Tennessee's five-game losing streak against Florida, and vaulted the Vols into the national title discussion—which they would go on to win four months later.