Classic SEC Football: Tennessee Tops Arkansas in 1998 to Keep Title Hopes Alive

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJune 29, 2012

Former Tennessee RB Travis Henry
Former Tennessee RB Travis HenryTom Hauck/Getty Images

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

For almost every team that wins a national championship, there's always that one game that stands out. That one game that's viewed as an escape more than a win.

In 1998, the Arkansas game was "that game" for the Tennessee Volunteers.

The game matched two unbeaten teams, with the Vols sporting the No. 1 ranking while the Razorbacks were ranked No. 9.

Arkansas capitalized on two Tennessee first half turnovers to surge out to a 21-10 lead at the half, stunning the crowd of 106.365 fans at Neyland Stadium.

The two teams swapped field goals and Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin scored from four yards out to cut Arkansas' lead to 24-20 heading into the fourth quarter.

For more than 12 minutes in the fourth quarter, the two teams weren't able to crack the scoreboard, but it wasn't without excitement.

Vols' defensive back Deon Grant blocked a field goal attempt midway through the fourth, but Tennessee didn't capitalize. Time was running out, and Arkansas looked like it was going to win this battle and keep its national championship hopes alive.

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Arkansas was attempting to ice the game away with under three minutes to play, but the drive stalled and the Hogs were forced to punt from their won 41-yard line with 2:56 to play. The snap sailed over Hogs' punter Chris Akin's head, and Akin kicked the ball out of the end zone for a safety.

Clint Stoerner fumbles with under 2:00 to play / Photo Courtesy:
Clint Stoerner fumbles with under 2:00 to play / Photo Courtesy:

Trailing 24-22, the Vols couldn't move against Arkansas' defense, and turned it over on downs with under two minutes to play. The Vols needed a miracle.

They got it.

Needing only one first down to put the game away, Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner stumbled after taking the snapped, dropped the ball on the turf, and Billy Ratliff recovered on the Hogs' 43-yard line with 1:43 to play.

Tennessee running back Travis Henry ran five straight times, scoring the game-winning touchdown with 31 seconds left.

The 28-24 win kept Tennessee's dream season alive, which culminated with a 23-16 win over Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl to claim the BCS National Championship.