The officiating in Tennessee’s 29-16 loss against Florida was so questionable that even ESPN’s Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit were critical of it Saturday night.
But one sequence was so odd and puzzling that Tennessee coach Josh Heupel dryly admitted he hadn’t seen it happen in a long time.
With Tennessee facing fourth-and-one at Florida’s 17-yard line in the third quarter, the Vols attempted to go fast and catch Florida’s defense unsettled. But the officials ran to the ball and stopped Tennessee from snapping the ball.
This typically happens when the offense is substituting and the officials must allocate time for the defense to substitute with them. Only Tennessee didn’t substitute. The official just kicked the ball which made them take time to re-spot it.
During that time, Florida ran its big defensive line package on the field while Tennessee waited for the official to move so they could snap it.
“I guess the official kicked the ball and moved the ball and re-spotted it and allowed them to sub,” Heupel said postgame.
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Florida stuffed a Jaylen Wright run for a two-yard loss to preserve its 26-10 lead and take over possession deep in their own territory.
Whether Florida was able to substitute by rule in the situation is unclear and Heupel, who was visibly angry after the play, didn’t have any answers postgame.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an official kick the ball,” Heupel said. “We have to go check the rule book.”
Tennessee’s defense forced a three-and-out after the sequence and the Vols moved into Florida territory again before a questionable blindside block led to another turnover on downs. When Florida responded with a field goal drive which extended its lead to three scores, the game was all but over.
The Vols’ issues were far larger than the officiating Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. But the odd occurrence was one of a number of officiating breaks that went against Tennessee in the loss.