Tennessee went toe to toe with Alabama over the weekend, hanging in there with the nation’s top-ranked team. Jeremy Pruitt had his guys fired up and focused, backing up the clear progress that his program had shown in the previous two weeks.
The Volunteer faithful were fired up with how their team performed in Tuscaloosa, but unfortunately, the big story coming out of this one was the officiating.
Several calls went against the Volunteers on Saturday night — from the unnecessary roughness call on Darrell Taylor to the downright bizarre stoppage at the goal line while Tennessee was in the wildcat. The calls were one-sided and Jeremy Pruitt could be seen getting in the official’s ear all night long.
Pruitt refused to criticize them after the game, but after watching the tape, he was a little more open to share his opinions.
“I’ll be the first to tell you, I fully support Steve Shaw,” Pruitt began on Monday. “This is a tough job. Things happen really fast. There’s probably three or four things that happened in the game that I’m complaining to the officials about, and I was wrong. Okay, when I watch the tape, they were right and I was wrong.
“Now, there’s probably three or four other things that happened in that game that I don’t agree with,” Pruitt continued. “Hey, we make mistakes as coaches. They’re going to make mistakes as officials. Players make mistakes — we all do, right? But there are a few critical plays in that game — and I’m not saying it would have changed the outcome of the game — but we’re all held accountable. From an accountability standpoint, it’s tough you know? What are the repercussions here?”
The worst call of them all came against Darrell Taylor, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness on Mac Jones after the play. The call came after Tennessee had gotten a stop, down just eight points in the second half. That call robbed the Vols of a chance to go tie the game, as Alabama went on to score.
“The call on Darrell Taylor was absolutely not a penalty. It’s not a penalty,” Pruitt said. “Would it have changed the game? I don’t know. I know they would have punted instead of going on and scoring on that possession. Was there a couple of times there where I felt like they took shots on our quarterback? Absolutely. Just the consistency there. It’s a tough deal. Accountability is even tougher.”
That’s a pretty level-headed response there from Pruitt, who had every right to be livid after Saturday night’s events. It’s tough to see such an outstanding effort perhaps go to waste after several questionable calls.
But Tennessee fans can take comfort in the fact that the Vols came out ready to play on Saturday night, building off of the efforts that we’ve seen since the Georgia matchup. The arrow is pointing the right direction for this program in terms of effort and physicality once again. That should pay off down the stretch with several winnable football games to go.
Still, this one stings. It’s something we’ll be thinking about for a long time to come. Will anything be done about it? Absolutely not.