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Familiar questions

Stoerner still talking about infamous fumble against Vols

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Posted: Wednesday July 28, 1999 07:18 PM

  Stoerner and Arkansas ended the season with a 45-21 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. Andy Lyons/Allsport

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Eight months after fumbling away the biggest game of his life, Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner was still answering questions about it.

Stoerner, whose fumble against Tennessee with 1:43 to play allowed the Volunteers to score the game-winning touchdown last November and preserve their run to the national title, spent much of Tuesday at the Southeastern Conference's annual media days reliving the play.

"I don't think I'll ever forget about it, or even allow myself to forget about it," Stoerner said. "It's a tough thing to swallow, but it's all part of the game."

Clinging to a 24-22 lead against the No. 1 Vols, unbeaten Arkansas needed only a first down to run out the clock or, at worst, to run three plays and punt. But Stoerner stumbled on second down and dropped the ball at his own 43 with 1:43 left to play. Tennessee recovered, scored a touchdown and beat Arkansas 28-24.

"It was one play that I have to live with the rest of my life," Stoerner said. "I'll never forget Tennessee -- I mean the play is always on television and I'm always asked about it -- but I'm comfortable with it."

Stoerner, unlike some players who allow one play to forever haunt them, has recovered from the fumble even though he takes sole responsibility for it. Coach Houston Nutt said that's what makes him special.

"Stoerner is such a man and a team player that he takes everything on his shoulders," Nutt said. "The team took that loss, not just one player. But Stoerner will never forget that game or that play ... but it won't affect him, he's too strong for that."

Still, Stoerner and the entire Arkansas team didn't really get past the game until the offseason. The Razorbacks lost again the next week at Mississippi State, then beat LSU but ended the season with a 45-21 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.

Stoerner said the losses were a product of the Hogs dwelling too much on the Tennessee game.

"We've got to move on as a team, and I think we have," he said. "We can't let one game haunt us anymore."

Part of the healing process came as the team tried to cope with the death of offensive lineman Brandon Burlsworth, who was killed last May in a car accident. Nine Arkansas players served as pallbearers at Burlsworth's funeral and Nutt said Tuesday that his death had changed the lives of at least 15 current players.

"Brandon Burlsworth's death help put everything in perspective," Stoerner said. "One day we were getting rings and the next day we were saying goodbye to a friend. All of a sudden, those rings and the Tennessee game weren't so important anymore."

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