Crazy Onside Sequence Ends Vols’ Chances

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    Butch Jones-1Visions of Tennessee’s amazing comeback two games ago against South Carolina started dancing around in UT’s fans’ heads after the Vols scored a touchdown and converted a 2-point conversion with 1:52 remaining in the game to cut Missouri’s lead to 29-21 – a one-score game.

    The Vols had two timeouts remaining and opted to go with the onside kick. That’s when the real madness set in. The Vols recovered the onside kick, but got called for a pair of penalties – illegal touching for making contact with the ball prior to it traveling 10 yards and offsides. Both penalties appeared to be called incorrectly. The illegal touching was reviewable, and it was, indeed, reviewed and showed that a Missouri player touched the ball before Tennessee did – making it a legal play.

    But the offsides call was not reviewable and was accepted by Missouri, forcing the Vols to back up five yards and try it again. Here’s where the real controversy comes into play. The officials very well might’ve missed the offsides call – denying the Vols a chance to put together a last-minute drive for the tie. Judge for yourself:

    Close, but appears that the Vols had everybody onside. The kicker’s plant foot is, by rule, allowed to be past the ball in that situation. But the Vols did get a chance to kick another onside after that and recovered it yet again. This time the officials – in what appeared to be the correct call – ruled that Tennessee illegally touched it right before the 10-yard mark and awarded the ball to Missouri.

    Tennessee head coach Butch Jones then challenged the call, which was upheld, thus costing the Vols their second timeout and giving Missouri the opportunity to run the clock out.

    Butch Jones was asked about the sequence after the game:

    “Saw some resiliency,” Jones said. “The ruling was we’d touched the ball before it went 10 yards. Anxious to go back to the office and see how close we were on the offsides. Obviously a pivotal call at a pivotal moment. It is what it is. Our kids were scratching and clawing and showing resiliency.”

    This may or may not have cost Tennessee the game. A lot still had to happen. The Vols were regularly beaten on the line of scrimmage, made too many mistakes and gave Missouri, a very good football team, a lot of opportunities in this game. We’ll cover that aspect of it in the coming days. But it was a wild finish to a game and a lost opportunity for the Vols to clinch bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010.

    *Special thanks to RTI friend Philip Masters (@philip_masters) for helping us with screen shots during the game.*