KNOXVILLE – About the officiating …
Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt moonlighted as a diplomat in addressing the subject as it pertained to last Saturday’s 35-13 loss at No. 1 Alabama. His strongest commentary came in an extended response to one question during his Monday press conference.
There wasn’t much to be gained by plowing the same earth again. Furthermore, a game against South Carolina is looming on Saturday (TV: SEC Network, 4 p.m.) at Neyland Stadium. The outcome will be crucial to the Vols’ chances of reaching six victories and becoming bowl eligible. They stand at 2-5 (1-3 in the SEC) with five games remaining.
Still, the nature of Saturday’s game and some of the calls involved warranted some second thoughts following video review. Pruitt waded in with more than a passing reply regarding the hot-button topic.
Pruitt began his commentary by noting that officiating is “a very tough job.” He said that there were “probably three or four things” that he was wrong about with his complaints on Saturday and a comparable number of instances in which he didn’t agree with what transpired.
“We’re all held accountable,” he said. “From an accountability standpoint, it’s tough. What’s the repercussions here, you know?”
Pruitt’s strongest comment pertained to the roughing-the-passer call on UT outside linebacker Darrell Taylor. The call prolonged a Crimson Tide third-quarter drive that resulted in a touchdown.
“The call on Darrell Taylor was absolutely not a penalty; it’s not a penalty,” he said. “Would it have changed the game? I don’t know. I know they would’ve punted instead of scoring on that possession.”
Later, Pruitt added, “There are a couple of things in there where I felt like they took shots on our quarterback, absolutely.”
Speaking of quarterbacks, Tennessee starter Brian Maurer was knocked out early with a possible concussion. It was the second consecutive game in which he departed under those circumstances.
“I trust our (medical) staff and right now they are still trying to determine where he is at,” Pruitt said.
In the meantime, backups Jarrett Guarantano and J.T. Shrout will be prepared for duty.
“It’s no different than pretty much what we’ve done every week,” Pruitt said. “Whoever is going to be the starter takes the majority of the (practice) reps so we’ll get those other guys ready to go and we’ll know in the next couple of day about Brian.”
Pruitt said that talked to Guarantano on Sunday, the day after his ill-fated leaping quarterback sneak resulted in a fumble and Trevon Diggs’ 100-yard return for the final touchdown with 7:21 left.
Pruitt confronted Guarantano on the sideline afterward and replaced him with Shrout.
“A lot of mistakes were made in that game and I made more than anyone else on our sideline,” Pruitt said. “… There’s a lot of decisions that happened in the game that could’ve changed the course of the game.
“That was one play. It was a pretty important one but one play. We’re moving on now.”
Pruitt said that he hasn’t moved on from Guarantano. Under the circumstances, he’s doesn’t have many options. He did have a choice, though, in expressing support for the redshirt junior.
“He’s a guy that I believe in,” Pruitt said, “and I haven’t wavered on that.”