ed. - We'd like to extend a warm welcome to all of our new friends from Vol Nation, especially PhillyVol and tommyut, who apparently can't read the time stamp of the article which clearly indicates this was posted October 28th, the Wednesday after the game. If there's anyone who hasn't moved on, it's your friend orangetaz for posting a link to a topic that's almost two weeks old.
Believe it or not, there's apparently a conspiracy theory afoot. I don't know if the ol' vaunted REC has finally gotten to the SEC officials or what, but either way Lane Kiffin is talking of "magical" flags appearing, and when SEC Commissioner Mike Slive told him to shut up, that just meant it was time for Ed Orgeron to run his mouth talking about the officials favoring the conference's best teams. And, of course, this all comes against a backdrop of countless Tennessee fans whining about the officiating Saturday.
It all sounds incredibly stupid to me, but even so I want to take a closer look at the penalties called against the Vols on Saturday and see exactly what happened. And to that end, with the help of flaco, we're going to do just that.
From the outset, it should be noted that Tennessee was flagged with eight penalties on Saturday afternoon. Four of those penalties, however, consisted of three false starts and one delay of game penalty. None of those penalties can be seriously questioned. They are all elementary calls that need no further explanation via film review. That alone takes half of the penalties off the board, and leaves us only four for consideration. Those four penalties are as follows:
- Pass interference on a ball thrown to Julio Jones on a 3rd and 8
- Illegal block on Javier Arenas' long punt return
- Holding on Tennessee while the Vols were driving into Alabama territory
- Roughing the punter immediately before Ingram's fumble
Let's take a closer look at all four of these penalties, beginning with the pass interference call on the pass to Julio Jones. Click the following clip for the play:
This penalty comes on a 3rd and 8 from the 'Bama 35-yard line, with about two minutes remaining in the first quarter. The penalty results in a 'Bama first down, and ultimately a Leigh Tiffin field goal.
Specifically, the flag is thrown on Dennis Rogan, and it's hard to complain too much about this call. Julio runs a hard slant inside, gets the proper positioning, but there is contact from Rogan the entire way. There is nothing overly egregious here, but again there is a good deal of contact beginning at the snap and continuing throughout the route, and the ball is clearly close enough to be considered catchable, so again it's hard to cite any real officiating error on this play. Any reasonable referee could have thrown a flag here, and this one did, after watching the route develop the entire way.
The next penalty comes via an illegal block early in the third quarter. Click the following clip for the play
Keep your eye on Denarius Moore in this clip. Javier Arenas has open field in front of him, and he is racing up the right sideline with two blockers -- Dre Kirkpatrick and Chris Rogers -- in front of him. With the way this play is set up, this one is going to be a huge return, plain and simple, and perhaps even a touchdown.
Moore, however, changes that by committing a textbook illegal block, i.e. a block below the waist. He clearly lunges for the lower legs of Dre Kirkpatrick, and the move clearly pays off. By doing so he takes both Kirkpatrick and Rogers out of the play, and forces Arenas to alter his route so that his Tennessee teammates can stop him a couple of yards further up field. Naturally, there is a referee watching all of about five yards away from the foul, and he immediately throws a flag. No conspiracies here, this is a textbook rule violation that any competent official would flag. Again, no one could rationally complain about this flag being thrown.
And in any event, two more points should be made here. One, this is actually a great play by Moore, and a classic example of where committing a penalty is actually beneficial to your team. Second, and finally, it should be pointed out that even if this were a blown call, it would have had no real impact on the game. Alabama went three-and-out in the following possession, and the ensuing P.J. Fitzgerald punt sailed out of the back of the endzone.
On to the third penalty...
This penalty is a holding penalty called on Tennessee center Cody Sullins for tackling Alabama defensive end Brandon Deaderick. And, once again, this is a clear violation. Deaderick is playing inside and gets great penetration into the Tennessee backfield, and upon seeing this Sullins grabs him by the shoulder pads and simply drags him to the ground. Regardless of your personal interpretation of the NCAA rule regarding offensive holding, it's clear this play qualifies as a penalty.
Now, to be sure, this was a costly penalty for the Vols. The run resulted in a one-yard gain, and it would have set up a 3rd and 7 for the Vols from the 'Bama 16-yard line. Instead, it created a 2nd and 18 from the 'Bama 27-yard line, and after two incomplete passes the Vols had a field goal attempt blocked by Terrence Cody. Nevertheless, the fact that it was costly doesn't make it a bad call. Far from it, it's as easy of a call as you can ever get for a referee. Offensive linemen cannot tackle defensive linemen. This is football, not Ultimate Fighting. Period.
On to the fourth penalty...
The final penalty for the Vols comes via roughing the punter. And once again, this one is in no way whatsoever a controversial call. Chris Donald comes in to try to block the punt, and clearly makes pretty hard contact with Alabama punter P.J. Fitzgerald. There is no grand acting job by Fitzgerald on this punt, or anything of the sort. He gets roughed up, and the flag gets thrown. Simple enough.
Furthermore, as was the case with the Vols' previous special teams penalty, it should be pointed out that even if this penalty was bogus, it nevertheless actually turned out well for the Vols. David Oku called for a fair catch of the 'Bama punt at the Tennessee 44-yard line, and when Mark Ingram fumbled on the following play, it resulted in Tennessee taking over at the 'Bama 43-yard line. In other words, oddly enough, this penalty actually gave the Vols an extra 13 yards of field position.
And those are the calls, all eight of them, plain and simple. No grand conspiracy theories here, no "magical" penalties, or anything of the sort. These were all easy calls that no one could really rationally dispute, and with that in mind that it should come as no great surprise that all of the puke orange complaints over the officiating have been general in nature, and not specific criticisms of the specific calls. Simply put, they don't have a leg to stand on.
Furthermore, all of this juvenile pissing and moaning completely overlooks the fact that Tennessee had several calls in this game go their way, and unjustifiably so. You can see that just by looking at the film of the last drive. Watch the following clip, and keep your eye close on the tight end who goes in motion:
This play comes with a mere 1:10 remaining in the game and Tennessee facing a 2nd and 10. Tennessee tight end Luke Stocker goes in motion, and is responsible for sealing off Alabama defensive end / linebacker Chavis Williams while Crompton rolls out to the right. But Williams is a quick player -- a linebacker by physical build -- and he shoots to the inside of Stocker, who is expecting Williams to move to the outside, and he gets into the backfield. So what does Stocker do? He grabs ahold of Williams jersey for dear life, clearly committing a holding penalty in the process. Without the holding, who knows? Maybe Williams gets the sack, but at the least he disrupts the throw and likely forces an incompletion, so the Vols would have been facing 3rd and 10 with about one minute remaining. Instead, the hold gives Crompton time, and he founds Gerald Jones for a 14-yard gain, giving the Vols' new life at the 'Bama 45-yard line.
With the penalty, it would give the Vols a 2nd and 20 at their own 31-yard line with only about 60 seconds left, a call that would completely alter the course of the game. But where is the penalty? Where is that "magical" penalty flag for such an obvious infraction? Where is that conspiracy? It's nowhere to be found, and instead the yellow yankie sits in the referees back pocket while the Vols get a freebie to march down field for a potential game-winning field goal attempt. Conspiracy, my ass.
Lane Kiffin may have gone conservative at the end, and he can blame it all he wants on fears of the officials screwing his team over. But such claims have no legitimate foundation, as we see here. At absolute most, he should have said that he went conservative at the end because he had no confidence in his players to not shoot themselves in the foot with boneheaded penalties. But of course Kiffin would rather run his mouth about everything but his own team, and if the truth gets in the way of that, then the truth be damned. Same thing goes for all of the Tennessee fans repeating his propaganda.
And that is why Lane Kiffin and Tennessee fans are stupid, among other reasons.