3. “Stumble and fumble” – 1998
No. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks at No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers
Hogs quarterback Clint Stoerner trips over his own lineman’s foot and fumbles the ball.
Let’s first debunk a few things about this play. Tennessee football would have gotten the ball back anyway with enough time to get into field goal range down by only two. Also, even if they had lost this game, they would have had a rematch in the SEC Championship with control of their own destiny to make the national championship game.
So no, the season did not hinge on this play. And it required a great push by the Vols’ defense as well. But taking that all into account, we still have to acknowledge how lucky this was. As Phillip Fulmer said at the end of the game, this 1998 national title team was good on television.
Anyway, the Vols had fought back from a 21-3 deficit to make it 24-22. They had help with a blocked field goal and a bad snap on a punt that resulted in a safety. But after that safety, they were stopped near midfield on fourth down with under two minutes to go.
The Arkansas Razorbacks were naturally going to run out the clock. But on a 2nd down play that was supposed to be a handoff, Clint Stoerner, whose epic first-half play built that lead, tripped over his offensive lineman’s foot going for the handoff. In trying to brace the fall, he lost the ball. Billy Ratliff, who got the push that caused Stoerner to trip, recovered the fumble.
The Vols took their newfound momentum and Arkansas’s fatigue on defense and simply handed the ball off to Travis Henry on the final drive. And Henry gashed the Hogs all the way down to the end zone for the game-winning score and a 28-24 victory.