Sep 6, 2013
By: Brian Rice
2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE.
Tennessee 30, Arkansas 22, November 15, 1997
Phillip Fulmer told reporters in the postgame press conference that he had expected a battle from Arkansas in Little Rock. The back-and-forth fight between the Volunteers and Razorbacks exceeded even the head coach's expectations.
Peyton Manning crossed the 10,000 passing yards mark for his Tennessee career with a 264-yard performance. Manning also became the third quarterback in SEC history to reach the mark, tossing three touchdowns in the winning effort. But it was Manning capitalizing on a pair of breaks created by the Tennessee special teams that made all the difference for the Volunteers.
UT struck first, as Manning connected with Jamal Lewis for a 23-yard score just 3:41 into the game. After an Arkansas field goal cut the UT lead to four early in the second quarter, Jeromy Flower intercepted a Manning pass and took it 36 yards the other way for a touchdown that gave UA its first lead in the game at 10-7.
The Vol offense sputtered again a series later, Flower fumbled the ensuing punt and Jerrod Haydon pounced on it to keep possession with UT. Six plays later, Manning hit Marcus Nash for a 13-yard TD to give Tennessee a 14-10 lead at the break.
In the third quarter, Razorback kicker Todd Latourette, who entered the game with just three made field goals on the season, connected on his second and third FGs of the game to give Arkansas a 16-14 lead. Jeff Hall gave UT the lead back, 17-16, with an 18-yard field goal of his own.
Rod Stinson capped an 81-yard drive for Arkansas with a 1-yard TD run to give Arkansas yet another lead, which stood at 22-17 after a missed two-point conversion. From there, it was all Tennessee.
Manning hit Nash for his second TD of the day, a 49-yard bomb up the right sideline, giving UT the lead at 23-22, after a missed two-point attempt. The teams traded fruitless possessions before Tennessee got that last break - and scored.
Eric Brown came up with the biggest play of his Vol career, blocking a Razorback punt deep in their own territory with 4:27 to go. Two plays later, Lewis put the game on ice with a dive across the goal line for the final 30-22 margin, keeping Tennessee's march toward its first SEC Championship Game appearance moving on.
"I wish we could say we called the blocked punt," Fulmer said. "Eric just saw an opportunity. It was huge to get points off of it."
"I just tried to take the ball off the kicker's foot," Brown said. "It's a big win and it helps our team go on. It's an opportunity to change the game around."