5. Jan. 1, 1991 (Sugar Bowl)
Virginia Cavaliers vs. No. 10 Tennessee Volunteers
Final score: Tennessee Vols win 23-22
The last time Tennessee football was in the Sugar Bowl was a memorable one. All year long, the Vols had suffered in close games. They lost track of time to tie the eventual national champion Colorado Buffaloes and blew a 26-9 lead at the Auburn Tigers and then missed a dead center field goal for another tie.
Later in the year, the Vols had a game-winning field goal against the Alabama Crimson Tide blocked, with the ball rolling all the way into field goal range for UA to kick a game-winner. And then they had a late-game interception in the red zone against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. So they won the SEC with an 8-2-2 record.
Johnny Majors’s team headed to New Orleans to face a mediocre Virginia Cavaliers team that won the ACC title by default since the conference was horrible that year. But UVA still managed to give the Vols a scare.
The Cavaliers, with Derek Dooley ironically on the team, built a 16-0 first-half lead. Tennessee could only get a field goal in the third quarter, so they entered the fourth down 16-3. That’s when the magic with Andy Kelly began.
UVA was driving for the knockout punch, but then they fumbled the ball in UT territory. The Vols responded with a 94-yard drive to make it 16-10. However, the Cavaliers brought it back to two scored with a field goal to make it 19-10. Kelly then hit Carl Pickens for a touchdown to make it 19-17. A Virginia field goal to make it 22-17 set up the Vols for a final drive.
Kelly successfully drove 79 yards in two and a half minutes for the game-winning touchdown, a goal line run by Thompson. They failed on the two-pointer, but the Vols held on to win 23-22 in a thrilling bowl game comeback. It allowed them to finish 9-2-2 and in the top 10.