After Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina on Saturday, two of the Vols’ defensive players were asked about a controversial no-call from officials at the goal line. Both defensive tackle Shy Tuttle and linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. said they believe the wrong call was made in the game and that South Carolina running back Rico Dowdle fumbled the football at the goal line late in the third quarter of Saturday’s contest.
On Monday, their head coach echoed their sentiments.
Jeremy Pruitt was asked about that play during his weekly press conference on Monday, and he said that to him, the play was obviously a fumble.
“It was definitely a fumble. I saw that,” Pruitt said on Monday. “You know, unfortunately for the officials, they only have certain angles that they can see. From their angles, they didn’t see that. It was disappointing for me because I felt like I could see it from the sideline.”
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On the television broadcast on the SEC Network, there appeared to be no clear view of the play that would’ve had enough evidence to overturn the ruling on the field that Dowdle was stopped just short of the goal line instead of fumbling. Ultimately, there was no official review, and South Carolina scored the game-tying touchdown on the next play.
According to Pruitt, that play didn’t cost Tennessee the game, however.
“But you know what? They (the officials) have a tough job to do just like we have a tough job to do,” Pruitt continued. “They do the best they can, and they have to take what they can and work with it. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but the officials had nothing to do with us getting nine penalties. They had nothing to do with us really losing the battle at the line of scrimmage. That’s only one small part of the game.”
Pruitt was later asked why he didn’t attempt to challenge the play and have the officials review it.
“There’s no more coaches challenges. Every play is reviewed by the officials,” Pruitt stated. “They look at everything. They’re limited with what views they have on the cameras. It’s like us, we film from different angles…and from our sideline view, you can’t see anything. But definitely from the end zone, it’s obvious.
“Like I said, those guys are doing the best they can do, and they gotta go with what they got. It would probably make a whole lotta sense in the SEC with as much money as we got to get end zone cameras.”
There wasn’t an end zone angle on the SEC Network that showed any conclusive evidence, only sideline angles that didn’t provide much insight into what happened on the play.
But Pruitt and Tennessee’s player both said the same thing: That one missed call didn’t cause the Vols to lose the game. Tennessee had nine total penalties, and six of them were pre-snap penalties. Of those six pre-snap penalties, five of them came on plays on third or fourth down. Not only that, but Tennessee’s defense got torched for over 220 rushing yards by the Gamecocks’ offense.
Regardless of that one missed call, Tennessee cost themselves the game, not the officials. And Pruitt wanted to make sure that was clear.
“We made plenty of errors in the game, and you gotta give South Carolina credit for creating a lot of those issues,” Pruitt said. “We’ve gotta get to where we don’t make those errors.”