3 Games that Defined the Johnny Majors Era of Tennessee Football

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    35-34 at No. 5 Notre Dame – Nov. 9, 1991

    Notre Dame was No. 5 in the nation, led by Lou Holtz, and was just three years removed from winning a national championship.

    Tennessee was No. 13 in the country and had a 5-2 record, their two losses coming to Alabama and Florida earlier in the season.

    The game was played at famed Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, and the Fighting Irish had national championship aspirations once again, having suffered just one loss on the season to that point.

    Notre Dame scored three times in the first quarter to take a 21-0 lead before Tennessee had an answer early in the second quarter.

    But the Irish kept piling on, eventually extending their lead to 31-7 late into the second quarter. But just before halftime, Tennessee’s special teams unit made the play of the day with a blocked field goal by Daryl Hardy that was picked up by Floyed Miley, who took it 85 yards for a touchdown to make it a 31-14 game at the half.

    That play right before the half sparked a historic Tennessee comeback.

    After giving up more than 200 yards on the ground in the first half, Tennessee’s defense dug in for the second half, forcing Notre Dame to turn to their passing game.

    The Irish scored just three points in the second half, and the Vols posted two more touchdowns to pull within six at 34-28. Notre Dame’s offense found themselves driving again, looking to put the game away before Irish quarterback Rick Mirer threw a costly interception to Tennessee defensive back Dale Carter.

    Three plays later, Tennessee quarterback Andy Kelly hit tailback Aaron Hayden for a 26-yard score to give the Vols a 35-34 lead.

    Notre Dame drove again in the final minute and set themselves up with an opportunity to win the game on a field goal as time expired, but back-up kicker Rob Leonard narrowly missed, thanks to a deflection by Tennessee’s special teams. and the Vols’ come-from-behind win was complete.

    Years later, that victory over the Irish is still known as “The Miracle at South Bend.”

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