KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee certainly remembers The Fumble. The Vols are betting Arkansas does, too.
"They pounded on us for 60 minutes and deserved to win, and we came out winning," Tennessee safety Fred White recalled.
Last year, the Vols and Razorbacks were each 8-0 when they played at Knoxville. Arkansas seemingly had the game won, but quarterback Clint Stoerner was tripped by one of his own linemen -- the Tennessee camp likes to say the lineman was pushed into Stoerner by defensive tackle Billy Ratliff's desperate charge -- and fumbled at his 43 with under two minutes left.
Tennessee pounced on the chance, scoring five plays later with 28 seconds left in the game. The 28-24 victory was Tennessee's closest call in its national championship season.
The stakes are again high for No. 3 Tennessee (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference), which moved to second in this week's Bowl Championship Series rankings. The top two teams in the BCS rankings will play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.
Probably nobody would like to end the Vols' dreams of a second national title more than Arkansas (5-3, 2-3), and the Vols know it.
"I think they'll be as pumped up for this game as any game they'll play this year, probably including their bowl game," defensive tackle Darwin Walker said. "We're going to have to play with that same intensity, because they're going to be rowdy."
Added tailback Travis Henry: "It kind of spoiled their season. I think they've had this game circled on their schedule for a long time."
Fulmer doesn't like to talk much about the BCS rankings, but said he mentioned them briefly in a team meeting Monday.
The players were surprised the Vols had moved to No. 2, he said.
"I said it doesn't mean it can't change, don't get too high or two low, stay focused on what's important. And that is being as good as we can be at Arkansas."
Fulmer said his players were "excited about the show of respect" implicit in the BCS rankings, but added: "That is completely out of our hands, except for us to play as well as we can play."
Fulmer says he doesn't think the Vols underestimated Arkansas last year. He said they just played poorly while Arkansas played well in building a 21-3 first-half lead.
The Vols especially had trouble with Arkansas receiver Anthony Lucas, who caught eight passes for 172 yards, including touchdowns of 62 and 8 yards.
"Lucas has just been exceptional since he's been there," Fulmer said. "It'll be a great challenge for our cornerbacks. How they play will have a lot to do with the outcome of this game."
It wasn't just Lucas. The Arkansas defense was very tough on the Vols last year, coming up with three turnovers and sacking quarterback Tee Martin four times.
"They're a high-pressure defensive team with 8- and 9-man fronts," Fulmer said. "They can challenge you mentally as well as physically. You have to be at the top of your game."
© 2016. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us