Alex Walls converted field goals of 33 and 25 yards in the final 10 minutes to give Tennessee the lead in a 13-3 victory over Arkansas in heavy rain to spoil the opening of revamped Reynolds Razorback Stadium in a heavy rain Saturday night.
Tennessee didn't get the lead until the 3:52 mark, but it dominated the line of scrimmage with its defense in the final three quarters to play a field position game that eventually took control of the game. The Vols took over on punts at the UA 24 and 43 on the drives for Walls field goals. They had to cover only 21 yards for the clinching TD in the final minute.
Arkansas was held for negative yards in the final three quarters, finishing the way it started against UNLV. The Hogs did manage one drive in the first quarter for Brennan O'Donohoe's field goal, but did not threaten again.
Travis Stephens was the game's main weapon. He gained 206 yards on a school-record 41 rushes. He scored the game's only touchdown on a 3-yard run with 59 seconds left after Ryan Sorahan's interception at the UA 21-yard line.
"It was a tremendous effort by our defense," said Houston Nutt, the Arkansas head coach. "We hung in there for three quarters. We just couldn't put together a drive. They are good. There is no question. They are the No. 7 team in the country. They did a good job.
"It was very difficult (the weather delays). It was difficult to keep them loose. On Ryan Sorahan, everything was good until there at the end. I wish we could have those last couple of series back. On one, I wished he had dumped it off. On a positive note, we found out we could play with anybody in the country."
Arkansas tailback Cedric Cobbs was held to 22 net yards on 15 carries. He had a gain of 40 yards to setup the Hogs' field goal, but was held to a minus 18 yards on his other 14 carries.
"It's frustrating," Cobbs said. "If we could complete a few passes, it might help. We aren't catching the ball. We need to work on that.
"I know the line was playing hard, but there are too many people up front. If we could catch some balls, it would back some people up. We have to work on our passing game to help this offense.
"But, if you look at it, it's not as bad as you might think because we are doing some things right in other places. Our defense is playing well. We were just one big play away from winning the game and we are going to keep working to get better."
Arkansas made just 92 yards on its 42 offensive snaps, an average of 2.2 yards per play. Tennessee amassed 319 yards on 72 offensive snaps. The Vols averaged 4.4 yards per play.
"We did some good things on defense," said John Thompson, the UA defensive coordinator. "But it wasn't enough. They did gash us in the run. They came right at us, and I didn't like that.
"But, what I did like is that we fought our guts out. We had guys like Carlos Hall who got hurt, and he just fought to get back on the field. Guys like Curt Davis fought their guts out, too.
"We did get the one big turnover to stop them from scoring on the goal line, but in a rainy game like this, you'd think you could get some more turnovers. We have to do better in that."
Secondary coach Dave Wommack was pleased with the way the Hogs contained UT's passing game except for one fourth-quarter completion that setup the go-ahead field goal.
"Batman (Carroll) knocked away some passes, and Ken Hamlin and Lawrence Richardson did, too," Wommack said. "The big one was the one Marvin Jackson got pinned late in the game. That was the big play of the game. He was right there, he just didn't make that play. He was against a big, physical receiver and he did the best he could."
Jackson said, "I got him just before halftime where he had to push me away for the pass interference, but he got me at the end. He's a big, tough guy. He was 6-5 and bigger. That's no excuse. I have to get in position where I can go up and rake it out."
Wommack said, "We played hard and did a lot of things right. We got better in the secondary from last week, and we can still improve. I think we improved from last week to this week. We just have to find a way to win games like this. I love these guys. They are playing so hard. That's the good news."
Arkansas quarterback Ryan Sorahan completed 8 of 16 passes for 73 yards with two interceptions.
"I'd like to have two of them back," he said. "The one before halftime slipped a little. I didn't like the way it came out of my hand. The last one was a poor decision on my part. I can't make that throw, force it in like that.
"But, we are going to get this clicking. We were close a bunch tonight. The conditions were bad, but it was the same for both teams. The level of play stepped up tonight. Tennessee is real good. I could see that. But, I think I can play with this kind of talent, and I adjusted early and felt like I could handle it.
"We must find a way to sustain drives. That is the thing that is disappointing. We have a lot of things to correct and do better. That is what we will try to do this week."
Arkansas had to start from its own 11-yard line to open the game, and promptly did what it took 3.5 quarters to accomplish in the opener. The Hogs converted third-and-4 on Sorahan's swing pass to Decori Birmingham. Then, Sorahan kept on the option to convert a third-and-3 for the Hogs' initial rushing first down of the season. They came up empty on their third try at a third-down conversion when George Wilson couldn't hang on to Sorahan's strike on third-and-13.
Tennessee opened with a smash-mouth drive. The Vols hammered straight ahead for four first downs before a procedure penalty handed them a first-and-15 at the UA 39. Lawrence Richardson broke up a bomb in the end zone, and Batman Carroll broke up a hook with a blast to Eric Parker's face.
After the Vols punted into the UA end zone, lightning bolts forced another delay, this time at the 4:58 mark of the first quarter. The start of the game was delayed 13 minutes because of a lightning storm that hit around 7:15 p.m. SEC commissioner Roy Kramer made that call from the press box. The public address announcer asked the crowd of 70,470 to move under the stadium, but the students didn't budge.
After the 20-minute delay, the Hogs unbottled some lightning of their own. George Wilson broke a tackle to scoot 25 yards on a Sorahan out throw. Then, tailback Cedric Cobbs made two cutbacks on a 40-yard run to the UT 13-yard line. The Hogs stalled their before Brennan O'Donohoe gave them a 3-0 lead with a 24-yard field goal from the right hash with 1:22 left in the first quarter.
The Hogs and Vols both snapped it 16 times in the first quarter with the Hogs holding a 95-64 edge in total yards. UT led in first downs, 6-4. Sorahan was 4-of-5 passing in the opening quarter for 42 yards.
Tennessee's next two drives ended with fumbles. The first, when Clausen was stripped by Corey Harris on a pass play, was recovered by the Vols on a third-and-long. The second one was much worse. Travis Stephens was knocked loose from the ball by Tony Bua at the UA 3-yard line. Ken Hamlin recovered for the Hogs. Hamlin rode Stephens out of bounds at 3-yard line at the end of a 25-yard run two plays earlier.
The Hogs got their best field position of the night for the final 3:15 of the first half when punter Dustin Colquitt's shank went only 12 yards and out of bounds at the UA 39-yard line. The Hogs forced the punt on Raymond House's sack for a 13-yard loss, right after Jermaine Petty's tackle on a sweep for a 3-yard loss.
The Hogs converted one first down on Sorahan's sneak on third-and-1, but Sorahan was intercepted after scrambling to his right. Jason Battle stepped out of bounds after a short return to the UT 44-yard line with 1:16 left.
The Vols finished a scoreless half by going backwards the rest of the way. Two holding penalties and an offensive pass interference penalty put them in a first-and-35 scenario to end the half, and the Vols decided on a draw to end their misery.
Tennessee did finish with the better numbers in the first half, leading in total yards, 156-111. But the turnover at the goal line kept them from seeing it on the scoreboard. The Hogs made only 16 yards on their 11 snaps in the second quarter. The Hogs did make one first down in the second quarter, and that was at least better than they did in the second quarter in the opener.
DeAndre Berry's tackle on the second-half kickoff started the Vols at their 13-yard line. The Vols had a pass play of 24 and a run of 19 to move to the UA 22-yard line. But consecutive tackles for losses by Carlos Hall and Batman Carroll's pass deflection at the goal line on a bomb stopped UT at the UA 28-yard line. Alex Walls' try for a 45-yard field goal hit the right upright and bounced away no good.
Neither team made a first down on their next possession, perhaps because the rain picked up into a torrential downpour.
Richie Butler's 16-yard shanked punt in the heavy rain, followed by a UT punt that went out at the UA 12-yard line gave the Vols field position for the tying field goal. The Vols started at the UA 24-yard line, and made one first down after Travis Stephens made 9 yards on first down. However, they stalled at the UA 12 when Corey Harris and Curt Davis made consecutive tackles for lost yardage, the last on a sack for a 3-yard loss. Alex Walls booted it good from 33 yards to make it 3-3 with 9:44 left.
The Hogs were stuffed on their next possession. Their only postive yardage play was a scramble by Sorahan. He gained 7 yards on a fumble out of bounds, but the officials moved the ball back to where he fumbled it forward for just a 1-yard gain. Butler's 37-yard punt was returned 12 yards to the UA 43 with 8:07 left in the game.
When Clausen fumbled a snap, the Vols were faced with third-and-13, but converted on a soft lob down the sideline that Kelly Washington hauled in over 5-9 Marvin Washington for a 30-yard gain to the UA 16-yard line. The Vols couldn't move from there, but Walls banged through a 25-yard field goal to make it 6-3 with 3:52 left.
Sorahan was intercepted on a throw down the middle into double coverage on the Hogs' next play. The Vols had it at the UA 21-yard line with 3:29 left. Stephens converted third-and7 with a 9-yard dash up the middle for a first-and-goal at thee UA 8 with 2:27 left.
The pre-game warmups before the rain hit.
There were a few seats empty in the upper deck of the East stands, but they were student seats that were purchased, but not used.
The South End Zone was full except for the student section on the fifth level and all of those tickets were sold.
The Vols couldn't find any running room on this play.
The SmartVision revealed the rain in the fourth quarter.
The rain picked up late in the third quarter.