1991 USF&G Sugar Bowl
57th edition
1234 Total
Virginia 9706 22
Tennessee 00320 23
DateJanuary 1, 1991
StadiumLouisiana Superdome
LocationNew Orleans, Louisiana
MVPAndy Kelly (Tennessee QB)
FavoriteTennessee by 5 points[1]
RefereeDean Cramer (Big Eight)
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersAl Michaels, Frank Gifford,
and Dan Dierdorf
Sugar Bowl
 < 1990  1992

The 1991 Sugar Bowl was the 57th edition of the college football bowl game, played at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Tuesday, January 1. Part of the 1990–91 bowl game season, it matched the unranked Virginia Cavaliers of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the #10 Tennessee Volunteers of the Southeastern Conference (SEC).[2]

Favored Tennessee rallied with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win by a point, 23–22.[3][4]


Main article: 1990 NCAA Division I-A football season


Main article: 1990 Virginia Cavaliers football team

The Cavaliers opened with seven straight wins and were ranked #1 in the AP Poll for the first time in school history, but a loss to Georgia Tech dropped them to eleventh; consecutive losses to Maryland and at rival Virginia Tech dropped them out of the poll completely, as Virginia finished third in the Atlantic Coast Conference and had lost three of four entering their first (and only) Sugar Bowl appearance.


Main article: 1990 Tennessee Volunteers football team

Tennessee was appearing in its seventh Sugar Bowl, but the first in five years. The Vols were champion of the Southeastern Conference for the second straight year due to Florida being on probation, and were as ranked as high as third until a loss to Alabama. They had started 4–0–2 before falling to Notre Dame and Alabama, with a win in between. The Volunteers ended the regular season with three wins and were ranked in the AP Top 10 for the second straight year.

Game summary

The game kicked off shortly after 7:30 p.m. CST, following the Rose Bowl on ABC, and shortly after the start of the Orange Bowl on NBC, which matched top-ranked Colorado and #5 Notre Dame.[5]

Less than six minutes into the game, Gary Steele scored from ten yards out for the Cavaliers to give them an early lead, though the kick was blocked. After the Vols punted the ball away, Jake McInerney added on to the lead with a field goal to make it 9–0. The Volunteers tried to strike back on their next drive, but quarterback Andy Kelly's pass was intercepted by Tyrone Lewis and the Cavaliers went to work once again, driving eighty yards in seven minutes, concluding with a Terry Kirby touchdown run that gave Virginia (who had forced three turnovers and had the ball for over 22 minutes) a 16–0 lead at halftime.

The second half started off small for Tennessee, with Greg Burke's 27-yard field goal to get on the scoreboard. The rest of the quarter was scoreless, but the fourth quarter saw 26 combined points, starting with a Virginia turnover that led to a Tennessee touchdown 94 yards later on a Tony Thompson run. McInerney added in his second field goal of the game extend the lead to 19–10. Kelly's touchdown pass to Carl Pickens closed it to 19–17. Virginia could only muster up another McInerney field goal, a five-point lead with 2:31 left. Kelly led the Vols down the field, driving 79 yards in two minutes, completing seven of nine passes for 64 yards. It ended with a one-yard Thompson touchdown run that gave Tennessee its first lead with 31 seconds remaining, although the two-point conversion pass attempt failed.[3][4] Kelly went 24 for 35 with 273 yards, two interceptions, but one touchdown, and was named the game's MVP.[6]


First quarter
Second quarter
Third quarter
Fourth quarter


Statistics    Virginia    Tennessee
First Downs 25 28
Rushes–yards 58–287 38–191
Passing yards 62 273
Passes 9–24–3 24–35–2
Total Offense 82–349 73–464
Return yards 0 51
Punts–average 1–48 2–20
Fumbles–lost 1–0 1–1
Turnovers 3 3
Penalties–yards 5–30 5–65
Time of possession 36:28 23:32


Both teams climbed in the final AP poll; Tennessee went from tenth to eighth, and Virginia from unranked to 23rd.[8]

Through 2024, neither team has returned to the Sugar Bowl.


  1. ^ "Latest line". Gainesville Sun. (Florida). January 1, 1991. p. 4C.
  2. ^ Wilson, Austin (January 1, 1991). "Vols aim to match '86 feat". Gainesville Sun. (Florida). Associated Press. p. 2C.
  3. ^ a b c d Wilson, Austin (January 2, 1991). "Vols use late TD to beat Virginia". Gainesville Sun. (Florida). Associated Press. p. 3C.
  4. ^ a b "Vols savor dramatic comeback". Free Lance-Star. (Fredericksburg, Virginia). Associated Press. January 2, 1991. p. 10.
  5. ^ "On the air". Gainesville Sun. (Florida). January 1, 1991. p. 1C.
  6. ^ "1991 Game Recap / Allstate Sugar Bowl". Archived from the original on September 24, 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Major bowl game summaries". Free Lance-Star. (Fredericksburg, Virginia). Associated Press. January 2, 1991. p. 13.
  8. ^ "Top 25 final poll". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). Associated Press. January 3, 1991. p. 23.