Posted: 11:51 a.m. Friday, Aug. 23, 2013
By Will Shelton
In each of the last three Septembers fans attending a home game at Neyland Stadium have been greeted by torrential downpours. In 2010 we partied in the rain against Oregon, a brief delay allowing our hope to flicker for a few minutes longer. In 2011 the opener against Montana was delayed before it got started thanks to an unreal storm that dropped temperatures from something with a 9 to something with a 7 in about 15 minutes and threatened to send many of us to the doctor's office on Monday. And while most of the Georgia State game was played rain-free last year, the pregame festivities were not so lucky. My friend and I turned down a cab ride from Gay Street to Neyland, and it remains one of the dumbest decisions I've ever made on gameday.
Those rains aren't necessarily memorable for the right reasons - the Vols beat a pair of FCS opponents and got clocked by Oregon - but there are several UT rain games that stand the test of time. When you're losing, rain is an absolute nightmare. But when you're winning, especially winning in a big game, the rain just makes the memory even better.
So here are our picks for the Top 5 Rain Games of the Modern UT Era, chosen not for the greatest of the game itself but how much you remember the weather along with the end result:
5. 2001 Arkansas
Two separate delays for a total of 34 minutes couldn't stop Travis Stephens. While Arkansas finished with just 92 yards of total offense in a driving rainstorm - 40 of them on one carry from Cedric Cobbs - Stephens pounded the rock a school record 41 times for 206 yards, and scored the game's only touchdown in the final minute to seal a 13-3 Tennessee win.
4. 1998 Arkansas
This game is easily the best and most memorable on the list, but so much happened in it the fact that it rained is way down the list. Did a wet turf help Clint Stoerner stumble and fumble? Well, it didn't hurt.
3. 1989 Auburn
#4 Auburn lost 21-14 the hard way: two safeties allowed on two wet ball snaps that missed the Tiger punter by a combined mile, one UT field goal, and two big touchdowns from Reggie Cobb and Chuck Webb. Cobb's came from 79 yards out, part of a 225 yard day, and included one of my favorite end zone celebrations.
2. 1995 Ohio State
Illegal cleats! Against what I still consider the most talented team the Vols have ever faced, Jay Graham outperformed Eddie George in the Citrus Bowl and the Vols beat the #4 Buckeyes 20-14 to finish the year ranked second in the nation.
1. 1992 Florida
This one stands far above all other rain games, both for the magnitude of the upset (31-14 over #4 Florida) and the sheer volume of the rain. The ABC telecast cut out just moments after Mose Phillips scored to put the Vols up 24-7 with one of my other favorite end zone celebrations.
What do you remember from these or any other rain games?