Scott’s Top 10 List of the Most Memorable Razorback Football Games Ever!
The 2011 football is less than two weeks ago and to get us primed and ready, here is my list of the most memorable Razorback games ever! This is my list based on my memories of following the Razorbacks all my life. Obviously, a couple of these were either played before I was born or when I was very young, but their importance in Razorback history warrants their inclusion on this list.
10.) 2000 Cotton Bowl Classic vs #17 Texas… Arkansas 27 – Texas 6.
After knocking off #2 Tennessee, then #9 Mississippi State and finally the struggling LSU Tigers; the Hogs salvaged the 1999 season and earned a Cotton Bowl berth against their old Southwest Conference nemesis, the Longhorns of Texas. It was the Hogs first trip to the Cotton Bowl since winning the SWC in 1989 and their first meeting with Texas since joining the SEC 9 years earlier.
The game was a defensive struggle until the 4th quarter when Cedric Cobbs and the Hogs scored 17 unanswered points to seal the victory. Cobbs, who would end up being the games MVP, scored on a 30 yard pass from Clint Stoerner in the 3rd quarter and again on a 37 yard TD run in the 4th. The Razorback defense held the Longhorns to -27 yards rushing, the worst in school history, helped out by 8 quarterback sacks. It was Arkansas’ first Cotton Bowl victory since 1976 and broke a seven game bowl losing streak for the Hogs. It was also the first time Arkansas had beaten Texas in consecutive meetings since the mid 60’s.
09.) First Major SEC win. 1992 @ #4 Tennessee… Arkansas 25 – Tennessee 24.
After losing the opening game of the 1992 season to 1AA Citadel, Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles fired Head Coach Jack Crowe and made Joe Kines interim coach. Coach Kines brought in Danny Ford, who had coached Clemson to a national championship in 1983 and would become the Head Hog the following season, to serve as a consultant. With Ford on the sidelines (many would argue doing the majority of the coaching), on a cold and windy day in October of 1992, the Hogs traveled to Knoxville to face the mighty Vols of Tennessee in what would end up being the Razorbacks first major SEC victory.
Trailing by 8 with under three minutes left in the game, Orlando Watters fielded a Tennessee punt and returned it 71 yards to bring the Hogs within two. Barry Lunney Jr was sacked on the conversion try, but the Hogs successfully recovered an onside kick to keep their upset bid alive. After driving to the Tennessee 24, Todd Wright secured his place in Arkansas history by hitting a 41 yard field goal with :02 remaining.
08.) “7th Heaven”.. 2001 @ Ole Miss… Arkansas 58 – Ole Miss 56.
In my opinion, one of THE most exciting Razorback games ever was played in October of 2001 when the Hogs traveled to Oxford to take on Eli Manning and the Ole Miss Rebels. Tied at 17 at the end of regulation, the two teams battled back and forth for an NCAA record seven extra quarters before Manning’s two point conversion attempt to send the game into an 8th overtime was batted down at the goal line by Arkansas Linebacker Jermaine Petty. The win marked Arkansas’ first ever victory in Oxford.
07.) 1995 @ #13 Alabama… Arkansas 20 – Alabama 19
Facing fourth down and trailing by 6 with 6 seconds left on the clock, Arkansas quarterback Barry Lunney Jr rolled left and found J.J. Meadors in the front of the endzone to lift the Hogs to their first ever win over Alabama. Whether Meadors actually caught the pass or trapped it is still disputed to this day, but the ref’s signaled touchdown and Hog fans across the country enthusiastically celebrated. The win helped propel the Hogs to their first SEC-West crown.
.06) Tie: “The Fumble”.. 1998 @ #1 Tennessee… Tennessee 28 – Arkansas 24 | “Redemption”.. 1999 vs #3 Tennessee.. Arkansas 28 – Tennessee 24
In 1998, Razorback football actually mattered again and the entire state was in a frenzy as the 8-0, tenth ranked, Hogs traveled to Knoxville to take on the top rated Tennessee Volunteers. The Hogs jumped out to a 21-3 lead in the first half and appeared to have held off the Vols come back hopes late in the 4th when Arkansas Jr Quarterback Clint Stoerner tripped and fumbled giving the Vols new life. Tennessee running back Travis Henry took over the game at that point and scored the deciding touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the game. The Hogs, still stunned from their loss to the Vols, lost the next week to Mississippi State (thus ending their SEC-West championship hopes and a rematch with the Vols), while Tennessee went on to win the SEC and national championships.
When the Hogs and Vols met in 1999, the stakes weren’t as high as they had been in their previous meeting, but in the minds of Arkansas players and fans this was THE game of the year. My brother and I sat just behind the students on that beautiful fall day in the Ozarks and you could feel the electricity in the air well before kickoff. The Hogs jumped out to an early 7-0 lead when David Barrett picked off a T. Martin pass and returned it 43 yards for a touch down. The Vols would hold a slight edge at halftime 17-14, but scored again in the 3rd to build a 24-14 lead. The Hogs would pull back within 3 when Clint Stoerner hit Anthony “Boo” Williams streaking down the left sideline for a 56 yard score with 6:02 left in the third. Both defenses held their ground until late in the 4th quarter when the Hogs got the ball back and drove down to the Tennessee 23 yard line, helped out by great running from freshman tailback Cedric Cobbs. With 3:44 left in the game, Stoerner pump faked and then hit Anthony Lucas in the back of the endzone, in a play that will forever live in Arkansas lore. Arkansas’ defense ended Tennessee’s comeback hopes when Barrett batted down a T. Martin pass in the endzone with just over a minute left to play.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the capacity crowd at Razorback Stadium sang and students rushed the field to tear down the goal posts. One of those goal posts now sits at a bar on Dixon Street in Fayetteville. It was the final game in Razorback Stadium before it was remodeled and the south endzone added. Those of us fortunate enough to be there will never forget the excitement of that win. At the SEC Championship game in 06, I was able to get both Clint Stoerner and Anthony Lucas to sign my ticket stub from that game. Recently, they talked with ASN about that day, here’s a link to the video.
I can’t think of this game without thinking of Paul Eels… “Stoerner, fakes. Throws. Lucas! Touchdown Arkansas! Oh My!! Lucas goes up, makes the catch, and the Hogs take the lead!”
Bonus video: Paul’s Calls! Man, I sure miss his voice.
.05) “Shoot Out in Little Rock” vs #9 Houston 1989… Arkansas 45 – Houston 39.
When the 18th ranked Hogs and the top 10 Cougars faced each other in Little Rock in 1989, both teams still were very much alive to win the SWC crown. The Hogs were coming off their first loss of the season (To Texas) and the Cougars only loss had come at the hands of Texas A&M (who, under R.C. Slocum at the time, were also in contention for the conference crown and ended up tying with Houston for 2nd that year). The Cougars (who had scored 95 points the week prior against SMU), were led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Andre Ware and had the nations top offense. But, it was Quinn Grovey who ended up being the games MVP, leading the Hogs to the victory and on to their second straight conference championship.
04.) “Miracle on Markham”.. 2002 vs #18 LSU… Arkansas 21 – LSU 20.
When the Hogs and Tigers met in Little Rock in 2002, the SEC Championship game was on the line. This was only a handful of games that *I* remember going to where there was NOBODY selling tickets around the stadium. The stadium was packed, but it wasn’t rocking.. It was actually kind of quiet for the most part that night, up until Matt Jones found Decori Birmingham in the back of the endzone for the game tying score that is.
The Hogs, trailing by 6, got the ball back after an LSU field goal with :34 seconds left in the game. Many fans had given up and were heading towards the exits. Then, Matt Jones did what he did best. Made a miracle happen. First, he hit Richard Smith on a go route down the right sideline. Smith was WIDE open and had the ball not been under thrown and he had to come back for it, would have most likely scored on that play. Two plays later, Jones avoided a rush and threw it up for Atlanta native Decori Birmingham who went up and made a spectacular catch between two defenders in the back of the endzone with :09 left in the game. Little’s extra point put the Hogs ahead for good and secured the Razorbacks spot in the SEC Championship game.
03.) The Phantom Pass Interference Call.. 1982, @ # SMU
I have never seen my father get so mad watching a Razorback game as he did at the end of this one. I’m pretty sure had there been a pair of shoes laying on the floor within his reach, one of them would have went through our old TV set. Cheating and SMU seem to go hand in hand, and many believe the ref who made this call was on the SMU payroll as well. The video is below, you make the call…
As the old bumper sticker read… “pass interference my $##”.
02.) 1978 Orange Bowl vs #2 Oklahoma… Arkansas 31 – Oklahoma 6.
Despite having a 10-1 record and top 10 ranking, the #6 Razorbacks entered the 1978 Orange Bowl an 18 point underdog to defending national champion Oklahoma. To make matters worse, in the days leading up to the game Arkansas Coach Lou Holtz suspended three players, two of which were responsible for over 75% of Arkansas total point production that season, and black players threatened to boycott the game because of the suspensions. It appeared Arkansas was self destructing. Asked how he was doing two days prior to the game, Coach Holtz responded “I’m one step short of suicide”. It seemed the odds were stacked against the Hogs and nobody would have blamed them if they had just called this one in and taken their beating like men. Fortunately for Hog fans though, nobody bothered to tell Roland Sales or the Razorbacks defense that they had no chance of winning. Sales would end the night rushing for two touchdowns and an Orange Bowl record 205 yards (a record which stood for 20 years) and the Razorback defense stuffed the mighty Sooner wishbone offense all night. Arkansas finished the season ranked 3rd in the nation, which was the last time the Hogs finished a season ranked in the top 5.
01.) “The Game of the Century” – 1969 vs #1 Texas… Texas 15 – Arkansas 14.
How could this game NOT be #1 on any “most memorable Razorback games” list? One of the most hyped, high stakes Razorback games ever. President Nixon was in the stands to award the national championship trophy to the winner. Texas came in ranked #1, Arkansas #2. Both teams were undefeated. The Hogs held a 14-0 lead after 3 quarters and had completely shut down the mighty Texas offense up to that point. That changed on the first play of 4th quarter when Texas Quarterback James Street broke free and scored, then added a two point conversion to pull the Longhorns to within 6. The Hogs responded with a long drive of their own down to the Texas 7, but Bill Montgomery was picked off by Danny Lester in the end zone. A field goal would have probably sealed Texas’ fate. With 4:47 left in the game, trailing by 6 and facing a 4th and 3, Longhorn coach Darryl Royal gambled and called “Right 53 Veer pass”, a play which wasn’t even in the playbook. The play, which was a deep pass to the tight end, worked to perfection and gave the Horns a first down at the Razorbacks 13 yard line. Texas would score the go ahead touchdown two plays later on a Jim Bartelson run.
There are many other games that would be honorable mentions. Games like the 6 overtime game against Tennessee in 2002, or the win over LSU in 2007. The Texas A&M game from 1988 was one I remember watching with my parents and jumping up and down when the Hogs made that last minute stand at the goal line. The South Carolina game in 2001 when Quinton Caver blocked the field goal to preserve the win was an exciting one to be at. Somehow, my 4 year old daughter SLEPT through the 1999 Mississippi State game in Little Rock, which was one of THE loudest games I’ve ever attended and came down to the final minutes.
What would your top 10 list be?