Dan Fleser: A Lot To Process After UT/Ole Miss Ends In Chaos

Sunday, October 17, 2021 - by Dan Fleser

There was a lot to sort through after Tennessee’s 31-26 football loss to Ole Miss Saturday night. The unusual collection of afterthoughts included officials’ calls, injuries, quarterback draws and a pile of debris, topped by a golf ball. Video review won’t do full justice to this assortment. Garbage bags also are necessary.

 

Fans throwing debris: The strongest memory arguably will be the game being delayed for 20 minutes inside the final minute following a questionable spot on a fourth-down pass from UT quarterback Hendon Hooker to Jacob Warren.

 

UT coach Josh Heupel addressed the situation in his opening postgame comment.

He was in a tough spot. The turnout of 102,455 reaffirmed the fan base’s passion and its excitement for the recent surge. But the display also reflected some fans’ worst tendencies.

 

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin was in a tougher spot. The golf ball that was thrown out of the stands came perilously close to hitting him on the fly. He still was being pelted with objects as he left the field and responded by throwing his visor into the crowd.

 

“I don’t know if I’m more excited we found a way to win or I didn’t get hit by a golf ball,” he told the SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic afterward.

 

The display also had something to do with the eerie hold the former UT coach still has on these fans.

 

“They’re passionate fans,” Kiffin said. “One hundred thousand came out to see a show. It didn’t turn out the way they wanted.”

 

Matt Corral: The Ole Miss quarterback ran like a Heisman hopeful running back, lugging the ball 30 times for a career-best 195 yards. He also threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns. He covered for the absence of receivers Jonathan Mingo and Braylon Sanders as well as tight end Chase Rogers.

 

Seven of Corral’s runs on either third or fourth down resulted in first downs. He ran the quarterback draw with uncanny effectiveness. On one third down conversion, he eluded both a blitzer and a defender who was designated to shadow him.

 

“He is a good player and puts you in a dilemma,” Heupel said. “Some of those plays were broken plays.”

 

Those plays certainly broke the Vols.

 

No TD: The most egregious call that went against UT happened in the first quarter, when Corral was stripped of the football in the backfield on a fourth-down play near midfield. Tyler Baron ended up with the ball and ran for a touchdown. But the officials waved off the score, saying Corral’s forward progress had been stopped before the turnover.

 

“They said forward progress had been stopped and it was a non-reviewable play,” Heupel said.

“The spot was the decision they came to and the chains were being moved, and I didn’t get an explanation on it.”

 

Injuries: The Vols lost guard Cade Mays on their first series to a leg injury. Mays’ brother, Cooper, was out for a third consecutive game.

 

Losing another Mays topped the injury report until Hooker was helped off the field during UT’s final, frantic drive.

 

Heupel had no update on Hooker’s condition afterward. The game ended with backup Joe Milton III trying to scramble for a score from the Ole Miss 21 instead of passing. He had no chance. The Vols’ chances, in turn, will diminish greatly going forward if Hooker is sidelined.     

          

* * *

 

Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at ddanfleser3@gmail.com.


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