‘Sto­er­nover’ every bit as bit­ter as ‘Shootout’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - WALLY HALL

It all came down to 5 plays, 43 yards and 75 sec­onds.

That’s the sum­mary that made the earth shake for the Arkansas Ra­zor­backs that Sat­ur­day, Nov. 14, 1998, and made a 28-24 loss to Ten­nessee the No. 1 most mem­o­rable game in this Sil­ver An­niver­sary se­ries.

Yes, this sum­mer’s feast of foot­ball fun, re­view­ing top games, ends to­day. Hate that it ends on a los­ing note.

Just five sea­sons ear­lier dur­ing Au­gust, Danny Ford, in his first sea­son as head coach at the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville, in­vited this re­porter up to the top of the stands where he liked to ob­serve parts of prac­tice.

Af­ter a few min­utes Ford asked, “Have the Ra­zor­backs ever won any big games?” Sure, he was told. “Well, I sure haven’t heard about them. All I’ve heard about since I got here was that loss to Texas in 1969,” he said.

That left an im­pres­sion that stuck, but that loss to Ten­nessee at Ney­land Sta­dium in Knoxville made a lot of folks for­get the 1969 game.

The game some dubbed “The Sto­er­nover” was one of the most mem­o­rable and as hard for the Ra­zor­back Na­tion to di­gest as the loss to Texas

was be­cause the Hogs were just as good.

It was more than a cou­ple of orange UT wins; Texas and Ten­nessee went on to win the na­tional cham­pi­onship.

How­ever, it was not Clint Sto­erner’s fault. Yes, he fum­bled, and Ten­nessee re­cov­ered. Stand­ing in a mist in the end zone it was ob­vi­ous mo­men­tum had just swung, but the Ra­zor­backs didn’t take a time­out and the Vol­un­teers came on the field with vengeance in their eyes.

It was later re­ported that on the win­ning drive UT of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor David Cut­cliffe called five pass­ing plays that head coach Phil Ful­mer ve­toed im­me­di­ately.

In­stead, Travis Henry ran for 15 yards to the Arkansas 28, picked up an­other 15 to the 13 and then 11 to the 2. Ev­ery­one in the place was on their feet and ev­ery­one knew Henry was get­ting the ball. He got a hard yard, and on sec­ond and goal the fi­nal yard for the win­ning touch­down with 28 sec­onds to play.

Arkansas’ locker room — in those days af­ter games it was open to re­porters — was as quiet as a morgue.

Stand­ing in front of his locker ready to face the me­dia was Sto­erner.

“My fault,” were his first and last words, although in be­tween guard Bran­don Burlsworth — a hero and suc­cess story all his own — said no, it was his fault.

For the one and only time in his ca­reer, Burlsworth changed his lead foot while pulling, and ei­ther Sto­erner tripped over Burlsworth’s foot or Burlsworth stepped on Sto­erner’s foot (that was Burlsworth’s claim). As Sto­erner was go­ing down, the ball hit the ground and spurted free.

Billy Ratliff, who had made his first tackle of the game the play be­fore, re­cov­ered.

Later Ratliff would say Burlsworth kicked his fanny the en­tire game un­til he pulled with the wrong foot.

In Ten­nessee that play is known as the “Sto­erner Stum­ble,” but rarely does one player win or lose a game and rarely does one play de­ter­mine a game, although that play was huge.

Arkansas had taken a 213 lead on three touch­down passes by Sto­erner — two to An­thony Lu­cas and one to Emanuel Smith — but there would be no more touch­downs.

At the half, the Hogs had 269 yards of of­fense and led 21-10.

The Vols made sev­eral ad­just­ments: They con­tin­ued al­low­ing Lu­cas to catch the ball, but they stayed in po­si­tion to tackle him al­most im­me­di­ately. In the sec­ond half, the Ra­zor­backs had 86 yards of of­fense and one field goal.

The Ra­zor­backs fought and scrapped, but with 1:43 to play a fum­ble gave a great Ten­nessee team a fi­nal shot, and it took ad­van­tage. The No. 1 most mem­o­rable game since Arkansas joined the SEC is likely the one most fans would like to for­get.

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