Josh Heupel hasn’t been happy with the officiating in a number of Tennessee football games this season. Particularly on the road.
It’s easy to see why.
In three road games this season, Tennessee’s opponents have been called for just one live ball penalty. Florida was called for holding on third-and-one in the first quarter against Tennessee. It was a big call though the Vols didn’t capitalize with a third-and-11 stop.
Officials called five penalties for 30 yards on Florida in the game while calling 10 penalties for 79 yards on Tennessee. Officials called two live ball penalties on Tennessee, going for 25 yards.
While some of the calls and no-calls were questionable, Heupel made no comment on the officiating after the game.
Things changed in Tennessee’s loss at Alabama. Officials called three live ball penalties for 30 yards on Tennessee in addition to the kickoff fair catch penalty and a defensive delay on third-and-four. Officials called just one penalty and no live ball penalties on Alabama in the matchup.
Here’s what a reporter asked Heupel after the game: “It seemed like at points in the second half your defenders were having to play two-hand touch and they (Alabama) were allowed to play Mortal Kombat a little bit. I mean, did you feel like it was a bit one sided?”
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Heupel didn’t say a word for 15 seconds while knocking on the podium eight times before finally saying, “Next question. Was that long enough silence?”
The streak of games without a live ball penalty on Tennessee’s opponent continued at Kentucky when officials flagged the Wildcats three times for 15 yards including two false starts and an offsides penalty. On the other side, officials called three live ball penalties on Tennessee for 30 yards.
A reporter asked Heupel about why the Vols’ pass rush was less effective against Kentucky. The third-year Tennessee coach had a similar response after a long pause.
“Okay, next question,” Heupel said.
In total, officials called Tennessee for eight live ball penalties for 85 yards in three SEC road games. Officials called one live ball penalty for 10 yards against the Vols’ opponents in the three games.
Skewed officiating towards the home team is no shock but the numbers are at least a little bit surprising. Especially considering the back-to-back games without a live ball penalty against Tennessee’s opponent.
Here’s a comparison to the numbers in Tennessee’s two home SEC games. Officials have called seven live ball penalties for 90 yards. Officials have called the Vols’ two opponents (South Carolina and Texas A&M) for a combined 12 live ball penalties for 118 yards.
The Vols return back home to Neyland Stadium this Saturday where they’ll face UConn. Tennessee heads back on the road in two weeks for its final away game of the season at Missouri.