Call for Vols sudden end to Vandy bid
Posted: Monday, November 21, 2011 7:01 pm
By BETH RUCKER
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — As the officials reviewed Eric Gordon’s interception to see if his knee was down before he ran 90 yards to the end zone, a Tennessee trainer inspected the defensive back’s leg for his own evidence.
“A trainer came over and looked at my knee, and said, ‘I don’t see any white paint or grass on your knee, so you look pretty good to me,’” Gordon said. “I was pretty much confident after that.”
He had plenty of reason to be. Though the officials had ruled him down at the Vols 10, they overturned the call on review, and Tennessee beat Vanderbilt 27-21 in overtime on Saturday night.
Southeastern Conference Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw said in a statement released more than two hours after the game ended that the call should not have been reviewed.
“During the play, the head linesman incorrectly ruled that the Tennessee player’s knee was down when he intercepted the pass by blowing his whistle and giving the dead ball signal,” Shaw said in the statement. “The play was reviewed as if there was no whistle on the field and as a result, overturned the incorrect ruling. By rule, if there was a whistle blown, the play is not reviewable.”
Had the officials not reviewed the play, Tennessee would have faced first down at the 25 yard-line and would have just needed a field goal to win.
The Commodores started with the ball in overtime. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers scrambled for a 10-yard gain, and Zac Stacy added 4 yards.
On third-and-6 at the 11, Gordon — who grew up not too far away from Vanderbilt in Nashville — picked off Rodgers and ran 90 yards. It was the first defensive score in an overtime since Sept. 9, 2005, when Ohio’s Dion Byrum picked off Pittsburgh’s Tyler Palko and returned it for a touchdown.
Gordon was mobbed in the end zone by his teammates, who were called back to the sideline after the officials ruled Gordon down before the return.
Twice last season, Tennessee thought it had pulled out a win in the closing seconds of a game only to see its fate change because of a penalty.
Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was seen skipping through the press box after the game, shouting “We finally got a break!” It was the first Southeastern Conference win of the season for the Vols (5-6, 1-6).
“(Gordon) made a huge play that was really exciting, and then it almost got ripped out,” coach Derek Dooley said. “But you know what? Maybe the old luck has turned on Tennessee.”
Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-6) instead got another narrow loss. The Commodores’ last four losses have come by a total of 19 points.
Their luck seemed to change early in the fourth quarter. Rodgers hit Chris Boyd on a 20-yard touchdown pass to give Vanderbilt a 21-14 lead.
Tennessee made it to fourth-and-goal at the five on the next drive, and Dooley called for a 23-yard field goal attempt. Sean Richardson appeared to block the attempt with under 7 minutes to play.
That’s when Vanderbilt’s fortunes appeared to reverse.
Richardson was penalized for running into kicker Michael Palardy. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin asked for a review of the play, but the officials maintained that Richardson had not touched the ball before hitting Palardy’s leg.
Dooley decided to go for it on Tennessee’s second chance, with the Vols now at the two-yard line. Tyler Bray threw to Da’Rick Rogers, who stretched his right hand out to reel the ball in as Casey Hayward covered him.
The touchdown tied the game at 21 with 6:27 to play.
After the teams traded punts, Vanderbilt drove the ball with confidence that had been missing for much of the second half, picking up three first downs. The drive stalled when Prentiss Waggner intercepted a Rodgers pass at the Vols 35.
“You can’t turn the ball over like we did, especially on the road,” Franklin said. “We didn’t play very well, and that’s my responsibility.”
Tennessee was unable to move the ball before the fourth-quarter clock expired.
Bray was 16-of-33 for 189 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first game back after breaking his right thumb Oct. 8 against Georgia. The cast on Bray’s throwing hand was removed Nov. 7.
Rogers caught 10 passes for 116 yards and the two touchdown throws from Bray. Tauren Poole had 107 yards on 19 runs and a touchdown.
Archibald Barnes grabbed both of Bray’s interceptions. The first he returned 28 yards to the Vols 6, setting up Zac Stacy’s 6-yard touchdown run at the beginning of the second quarter.
Barnes snagged the second pick at Vanderbilt’s own end zone and ran all 100 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time an opponent has gone that far on an interception return against Tennessee since 1962.
The Commodores had chances to light up the scoreboard more in the first half but kept getting in their own way.
Published in The Messenger 11.21.11