Jeremy Pruitt admits SEC officials have 'very tough job' but notes they missed several key calls in Tennessee-Alabama game
During his latest press conference, Jeremy Pruitt could have easily gone off on the officials and some of the calls that went against Tennessee in the Alabama game — and he would have been justified in doing so.
Instead, the Tennessee coach pointed out how tough of a job those officials have week and week out as well as offered his support for the job they do calling Tennessee’s games. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t firmly believe mistakes were made in the game and there’s no way around that two days later.
“To start with the officiating, I’ll be the first to tell you that I fully support (SEC officiating coordinator) Steve Shaw and everything that goes about with the SEC and our officials — it’s a tough job. It’s a very tough job,” Pruitt said on Monday. “Things happen really fast, there’s probably three or four things that happen in the game that I’m complaining to the officials about and I was wrong.
“When I watch the tape, they were right and I was wrong. You know? Now, there’s probably three or four other things that happened in that game that I don’t agree with, okay? And there’s nothing Steve could tell me, or anyone else could tell me where I would agree with what happened in the game. Whether it was a flag on us or not a flag on us.”
Pruitt is willing to admit the calls didn’t necessarily cost Tennessee the game but he did note several times how important those missed calls were in Saturday’s game down in Tuscaloosa.
“We make mistakes as coaches, they are going to make mistakes as official, players make mistakes, we all do, right? Nobody is perfect but there are a few critical plays in that game — and I’m not saying it would have changed the outcome of the game, not saying that,” Pruitt said. “There was probably some against us, too. But, unfortunately, we are all held accountable and from the accountability standpoint, it’s tough. What’s the repercussions here (of a bad call by the official)?
The call that seemed to stick with Pruitt the most was the unsportsmanlike penalty his defense drew after Alabama quarterback Mac Jones was hit to the ground. The hit wasn’t the issue with the officials, it was Darrell Taylor simply getting up and pushing off Jones that drew the flag. That penalty came after an incompletion on third down which would have killed an Alabama drive. It’s worth noting that Tennessee had just scored a touchdown on the previous touchdown.
“The call on Darrell Taylor was absolutely not a penalty, that’s not a penalty,” Pruitt said. “Would it change the game? I don’t know, I know they would have punted, instead of going on and scoring that possession. Could they have scored the next possession? Sure, you know? Where there a few that I felt were shots on our quarterback? Absolutely.
“Their kids are playing hard just like our kids did but we had a couple of targeting calls the last two weeks and the definition of targeting the officials in the game throw (a flag), right? That’s overruled in Birmingham or from the replay booth or wherever. I don’t know, just the consistency there, it’s a tough deal for everybody involved and the accountability is even tougher.”
Pruitt was later asked a follow-up regarding whether he received an explanation for any of the calls in the game. The Tennessee coach didn’t answer the question but did go further into why he disagreed with some penalties that were called against his team on Saturday night.
“The officials are trying to get it right, okay? Just like I wake up in the morning and walk out there, I’m not saying I want to make a mistake as a coach today, okay? Or as a player. Nobody operates that way, right? We are all trying to get it right,” Pruitt continued.
“It’s a tough game to manage but there are certain things that can be overturned and there’s certain things that just – you know, we get a holding in the red area, actually two holding calls in the red area – and maybe we held, but you know what? You can call holding on every single play in college football. We also get a lineman downfield in the red area, every RPO that’s out there, there’s guys five to seven yards downfield. Every play that somebody throws an RPO, which is really what the game has become. Our guy was five yards down the field blocking a guy.”
We’ll never know how Saturday night may have turned out if Tennessee didn’t get these flags called on them, and that’s the frustrating part for Pruitt and his improving program. They deserve the opportunity to win or lose on the field but in the eyes of many, including Pruitt, the Vols were denied that opportunity Saturday night.