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100 Days of Vols: #95 - Taking Over the 4th Quarter

We continue celebrating the Vols by remembering those days when any game within a touchdown in the 4th quarter was wrapped in orange and white.

Kevin C. Cox

I'm 25. I'll be 26 this August. If you're a bit younger than me, you may not remember the Vols I grew up with. Perhaps you knew nothing before the decline of the 2000s. Or worse, perhaps you're like my sister, whose first UT game was the 2010 Music City Bowl and who has never known a coach but Derek Dooley.

If you're a little older than me, you'll remember the teams I grew up with, and you'll remember them with more context. In 1995, I didn't know that Tennessee destroying Alabama was unusual. It was standard procedure for the first seven years I watched. But with that additional context will come additional baggage. You saw the same teams I did, but they weren't your formative experiences. They didn't set your expectations.

But if you're right about my age, the Tennessee you grew up with will be the Tennessee I grew up with: the Tennessee that never lost a game that was close in the fourth quarter. In the first four years I followed the Vols, a total of 50 games, Tennessee lost a grand total of once when it was close late. Once. And that once was easily written off by my nine-year-old self as the mother of all flukes helped along by the mother of all terrible calls.

For the other 49 games, the trend held solid. If it was close late, Tennessee won. I had full confidence. Never did I go into a 4th quarter as I do now, gripping the edge of my seat and hoping we don't do something to screw it up. When we were within striking distance late, we had the opponents right where we wanted them. Because our running game was tough and our defense was tougher. Late in the game, we had something left, and you didn't. We could run it down your throats, and you couldn't.

This was my Tennessee. And nothing epitomizes my Tennessee more than the last drive of the 1998 Arkansas game. You'll hear more about this game as the 100 days of Vols rolls on. Clint Stoerner is a fond memory for many of us, and we'll spill virtual ink telling his story. But this is not his story. This is the story of Travis Henry and the Tennessee offensive line. The story of a Volunteers team that needed one drive and an Arkansas defense that needed one stop. The Vols had what it took, the Hogs did not.

What do you do when you're 44 yards away, can't stop the clock, and have just 1:43 to put up the winning score? If you're the Tennessee I grew up with, you hand the ball to Travis Henry. And you dare the other team to stop you. And they can't. That's what happened in the 1998 Arkansas game. Tennessee was on the Arkansas 44 with under two minutes to play and no timeouts.

On first down, they gave the ball to Travis Henry. He ran off right tackle for 16 yards. If you were worried about not being able to stop the clock with the ground game, you shouldn't be. All you have to do is get a first down on every carry. On their second play of the series, the Vols handed off to Henry again, who followed a block by Shawn Bryson around the left side of the line for 15 more yards. On the third play, Henry went right up the middle for 11 yards.

In less than forty seconds, the Vols had gone from the Arkansas 44 to the Arkansas 2. They used three plays. All were handoffs to Travis Henry. All went for first downs. It took two attempts from there to reach the end zone, but it didn't matter. The game was won, the last two plays were merely formalities.

I have heard that the Tennessee offensive linemen were giving Arkansas' defense the play calls and literally daring the Hogs to stop it. I have no idea if this is true, but after seeing the sheer strength of Tennessee's will, it wouldn't surprise me. It was the sort of drive that could spawn legends. It didn't matter what advantages the defense had. They weren't doing anything to stop the Vols. As happened so many times in the mid to late 90s, the fourth quarter was all about the orange and white.

Apparently, while the "embed and start at time t" works in our editor's preview, it didn't work in the post. The part I'm talking about is at the 1 hour, 45 minute mark.