No. 1 Tennessee benefited from an incredible bit of luck and rallied to win a game it shouldn't have Saturday, beating No. 10 Arkansas 28-24 on Travis Henry's 1-yard dive with 28 seconds left.
The score capped a final three minutes that almost defied belief and prevented the nation's top team from losing for the second straight week.
Arkansas (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) outplayed the Vols (9-0, 6-0) and appeared to have won when it held on fourth down at midfield to take possession at the Tennessee 49 with 1:54 left.
All the Razorbacks needed was a first down, or a punt to force the Vols to go a long way -- something they had found it hard to do against the Hogs defense.
On second down, quarterback Clint Stoerner, who threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns, tripped as he pulled away from the line of scrimmage. He put his right hand -- with the ball in it -- on the ground to try to regain his balance, and left the ball there.
Tennessee's Billy Ratliff recovered at the Arkansas 43 with 1:43 left. Henry carried five straight times against the stunned Razorbacks defense for the score. He finished with 197 yards on 32 carries.
Arkansas led 24-20 when Tennessee blocked Todd Latourette's 37-yard field goal try. Al Wilson returned it 50 yards to the Razorbacks 36 with 6 ½ minutes left.
Arkansas held and Tennessee punted away what appeared at the time to be its last good chance.
The punt was downed at the Razorbacks 1. The Hogs drove to their 41 before stalling. The punt snap sailed over Chris Akin's head, and instead of trying to pick it up he booted it through his own end zone for a safety that made it 24-22 with 2:56 left.
Tennessee returned the free kick to it 49, but gained only a yard in four plays, giving the ball back and setting up Stoerner's unlikely fumble.
Stoerner was 17-of-34, with touchdowns of 62 and 8 yards to Anthony Lucas and 8 yards to Emanuel Smith. Lucas caught eight passes for 172 yards.
| Tennessee wide receiver Cedrick Wilson (14) is tripped up by Arkansas' Kenoy Kennedy in the first half. (AP) |
The Vols, sporting their first No. 1 ranking since 1956, did not play like the country's best team. They lost two fumbles to set up 10 Arkansas points, threw an interception, were penalized nine times, dropped passes and generally made enough mistakes to lose two or three games.
The blitzing Arkansas defense gave the Vols offense fits, sacking Martin four times and harassing him throughout. He was 10-of-27 for 155 yards.
Arkansas converted a fumbled punt into Latourette's 33-yard field goal early in the third quarter to take a 24-10 lead.
Tennessee drove 69 yards in seven running plays to score on Martin's 4-yard run to make it 24-17 with 8:14 left in the third. Henry carried six consecutive plays and picked up 56 yards in the drive.
Jeff Hall's 21-yard field goal pulled the Vols to within 24-20 with 57 seconds left in the third quarter.
Arkansas played a nearly flawless first half to take the 21-10 lead.
The Razorbacks ran for 92 yards, beat Tennessee's man-to-man coverage for the long touchdown, and confounded the Vols offense.
The Hogs scored first after recovering a Tennessee fumble at the Volunteers 24. Stoerner hit Smith in the left flat for the score.
Lucas beat cornerback Steve Johnson down the right sideline for the 62-yard touchdown that put the Razorbacks up 14-0 on the first play of the second quarter.
The Vols got on the scoreboard with Hall's 41-yard field goal that made it 14-3 with 6:23 left in the half.
Arkansas roared back with Chrys Chukwuma gaining 32 and 15 yards on misdirection plays, setting up Stoerner's 8-yard pass to Lucas for a 21-3 lead with 3:15 to go.
The Vols kept their hopes alive with an 80-play touchdown drive, scoring on Martin's 36-yard pass to Peerless Price with 2:03 left in the half. That made it 21-10, Arkansas, at the break.
Stoerner's first-quarter touchdown pass to Smith was his 19th of the season, an Arkansas record.
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