Calmness prevailed during hectic ending

Game recap: Tennessee 27, Vanderbilt 21

Moments after the validity of his 90-yard, game-winning interception return for a touchdown was in doubt, Eric Gordon was over at the trainer's table getting his knees examined.

Gordon wasn't hurt. The trainer was simply looking for any visible evidence to gauge whether or not the Tennessee redshirt sophomore's knees made contact with the ground before his improbable play sent the 91,367 fans at Neyland Stadium into absolute hysterics.

"He said 'I don't see any white paint or no grass. You look pretty good to me,' " Gordon said. "I was pretty much confident after that."

His confidence was mimicked by his coach. Derek Dooley, after all, shook hands thinking he'd won twice last season only to see something wacky go against the Vols and subsequently lead to a loss, so this was nothing new.

"You just got to stay calm," Dooley said. "Stuff like that happens."

Hectic endings like the one that punctuated UT's 27-21 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday night have certainly happened on an inordinate basis to Dooley and the Vols over the past two seasons, but this one actually went the Vols' way.

Faced with a third-and-6 on the Vols' 11-yard line on the first series of overtime, Gordon jumped an out route and snagged the Vols' third interception of the game. Untouched and surrounded by his teammates, Gordon sprinted down the sidelines and into the end zone, conceivably clinching the Vols' first SEC win of the season.

With players and other UT staffers already celebrating across the field, Vanderbilt coaches stood patiently, pointing at the spot of the field where a side judge said Gordon's knee had touched the ground. The details get murky from there, as Vanderbilt coach James Franklin angrily protested the fact that the play was able to be reviewed.

Per NCAA rules, a play cannot be reviewed if it is blown dead.

"They blew the play dead," Franklin said. "They blew him down, but they explained to me again why you can do that and it still counts.

"They explained every call on the sideline and I didn't have my rulebook. They explained it very well. (The referees) were very pleasant when they explained them."

Though a whistle was heard on the TV replay, Dooley said he was told that the side judge never blew the play dead.

"What they ruled was his knee was down, which was an unchallenge-able play," Dooley said. "That's why we didn't challenge it. They never blew a whistle and they never ruled him down. If it wasn't down, you could challenge it. If they had blown a whistle and ruled him down, it wasn't challenge-able.

"I don't care how it got done. I'm just happy we got one."

The play served as vindication for both the Vols, who were able to celebrate the win twice rather than relive the gruesome memories of last year's finishes at LSU and against North Carolina in the Music City Bowl, and for Gordon.

A starter at cornerback last season, Gordon has seen his playing time drop dramatically this season, as he's bounced in and out at the nickel. After a Homecoming performance against Middle Tennessee State in which he had an interception and accumulated a team-high two tackles for loss, Gordon was on the field for just 10-15 plays last week against Arkansas.

"It's really tough to maintain that confidence," Gordon said. "Older vets like Prentiss Waggner and Art Evans, those guys they kept me smiling and kept me through it."

What has kept Gordon from playing more ultimately led to the biggest play of UT's 2011 season. Gordon said he jumped on the play because it was the exact same as one Vanderbilt ran earlier in the drive.

"He's a little bit of a risk-taker so sometimes he gives up some but they're not as big at the nickel spot as they are at the corner," Dooley said. "He made a huge play and it was really exciting. Then it almost got ripped out."

The uncertainty never fazed Gordon. He had all the visual evidence he needed.

"I just feel like I'm a play-maker and I need to make plays," Gordon said. "When I'm out there that's all that goes through my head, make plays.

"I was very fortunate tonight to make a big play."

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 40

John_10065 writes:

It is the #2 play on ESPN top 10 plays right now and I heard the whistle there too! LOL

Vandy will be complaining about that pick for the next 100 years.

FWBVol writes:

I thought I heard a whistle too, but my thought is maybe it wasn't an official's whistle. The drum major in the band has a whistle to get the band ready and Vandy's band was almost in front of where the play happened. Could it be the whistle came from some source other than the official?

That said, I think the officials did get it right. Even if they had ruled Gordon down we still get the ball playing for the win. IMO it just hastened the inevitable...that we were going to beat Vandy.

cdtvol writes:

What a great way for 4 seniors to go out....100+ RUSHING... 2 with interceptions.... and 1 a fumble caused... WTG VOLS whistle or no whistle!!

budd#207344 writes:

Congrats to Mr. Gordon. Great play and I am glad he was the one to make it.

spacehistorian writes:

When the refs huddled after the apparent TD return I though "oh, no!" here we go again. I feared that we would have victory ripped from us again by the zebras but much to my amazement the officiating crew actually got the call right and Tennessee got the win fair and square. Vandy can complain about technicalities but the replay made it obvious that Gordon's knee never came close to hitting the turf. The whole purpose of replay was to make sure human error didn't cost a team the football game. The replay system worked and the right team won. Now on to Kentucky for another must win game for our Vols.

JimmyJoe writes:

Great win boys! The reason it was a problem at all was because the official made the wrong call to begin with.... According to ole Rocky Goode the refs are supposed to "see it" then call it. This has happened a lot in Tennessee games where they call something where they assume something...the right thing happened in the end... And we would just have kicked a field goal and won it any way.

ORboy writes:

in response to FWBVol:

I thought I heard a whistle too, but my thought is maybe it wasn't an official's whistle. The drum major in the band has a whistle to get the band ready and Vandy's band was almost in front of where the play happened. Could it be the whistle came from some source other than the official?

That said, I think the officials did get it right. Even if they had ruled Gordon down we still get the ball playing for the win. IMO it just hastened the inevitable...that we were going to beat Vandy.

There were a couple of times earlier in the game when I heard what sounded like a whistle that were completely independent of the play on the field. My thought was it may have been crowd noise.

volsreign writes:

Here's all that matters, Franklin: HE WASN'T DOWN! So what if some viewers think they heard a whistle? Obviously the players didn't hear one because nobody stopped playing so there was no advantage for us. I was there sitting in that endzone and I didn't hear a whistle. But again, if nobody on the field heard a whistle and everybody kept playing and HE WASN'T DOWN anyway, you don't have any reason to cry, coach Franklin.

richvol writes:

It was an amazing play...I had just turned to my buddy and said,"somebody needs to make a game winning play for us"...thanks LORD.

Pompey writes:

....this is clearly a better Vandy team than we are accustom to, that's why we beat them by only one touchdown....!

vol98champ writes:

For Vandy "the agony of defeat". For UT "the agony of victory". Even as Gordon reached the end zone I was wondering how the refs would take it away. The umpire actually saw the play and knew he wasn't down. The side judge didn't see it and called it down anyway.

FatherVol writes:

in response to ORboy:

There were a couple of times earlier in the game when I heard what sounded like a whistle that were completely independent of the play on the field. My thought was it may have been crowd noise.

I am glad we got the win, but if you watch the replay closely not only will you hear the whistle but you will also see the linesman run to the spot and point to the ground where he indicates he thought Godon's knew went down.

efjohnson writes:

The definitive answer is in the Tennessean this morning, they have an additional hour advantage with their press deadline. The head of SEC officials said the play was not reviewable since it had been blown dead. We got away with one- finally. Thank goodness, since his knee was never down, and thank goodness all the players kept on playing after the whistle was blown (it was blown twice for emphasis).

Dooley was anything but calm before they announced that the play was under review. And Franklin was anything but calm after the ruling was overturned. He started to throw his headphone set, but stopped short of that. I didn't see any post game handshake either.

TommyJack writes:

Calmness prevailed? Please.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to FatherVol:

I am glad we got the win, but if you watch the replay closely not only will you hear the whistle but you will also see the linesman run to the spot and point to the ground where he indicates he thought Godon's knew went down.

he also called it a fumble which added to the confusion. They huddled, reviewed it, got it right.

TKO writes:

BEAT KY!

gillblog writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

he also called it a fumble which added to the confusion. They huddled, reviewed it, got it right.

There had to be a SECOND whistle(r), most likely from the grassy knoll! That was one magic whistle.

TommyJack writes:

Wake Forest my new favorite team.

derainey36#303427 writes:

in response to FWBVol:

I thought I heard a whistle too, but my thought is maybe it wasn't an official's whistle. The drum major in the band has a whistle to get the band ready and Vandy's band was almost in front of where the play happened. Could it be the whistle came from some source other than the official?

That said, I think the officials did get it right. Even if they had ruled Gordon down we still get the ball playing for the win. IMO it just hastened the inevitable...that we were going to beat Vandy.

I heard a whistle several times during the game it was just a fan trying to cause trouble.

spankymbc writes:

The whistle came from the grassy knoll area over behind the bench. In fact I think there is a video some where. It is great to be a TN Vol. Maybe this is the kind of win we needed to finally get some momentum. It was a game like this against LSU in 2001 when TN was looking at playing for another title that sent this program into a spiral, so maybe this is finally the turn!!!

Couchdummy writes:

"You just got to stay calm," Dooley said. "Stuff like that happens."

Glad TN won, but who was the wild man in orange pants on the sideline who was in a frantic frenzy?

volinlm writes:

in response to Couchdummy:

"You just got to stay calm," Dooley said. "Stuff like that happens."

Glad TN won, but who was the wild man in orange pants on the sideline who was in a frantic frenzy?

Lip-reading at best, he was telling those players on his side who were lobbying wildly for a challenge, to shut up and let him get all the facts. The refs were talking it over. On TV, they showed the replay refs in the both on their 2-way radios. But, every UT fan and player, saw he wasn't down and were yelling at Dooley. He knew the rules and finally had had it and yelled at them to shut the h*ll up! You're right, though, I haven't seen Dooley that p.o.'d before. Crazy ending.

UTKin1992 writes:

Calm? Dooley went absolutely off the hook during the ending! Even my wife and daughters couldn't believe his lunatic behavior. Apparently some people have selective memories...

cyclonevol87 writes:

What i cant figure out the head ref came out and said it was a fumble and ut recovered the ball and the players knee touch the ground,It was not even close to being a fumble were they even watching the play.

VOL1972 writes:

Somebody may have blown a whistle, but apparently it wasn't any of the officials.

After they huddled, the offical came out and announced that the play was under review and that there was no whistle. I can only assume he came to that conclusion by asking the other officials when they huddled.

Dooley was also told By the officials that there was no whistle (by an official). With 90,000+ fans, it is not inconceivable that somebody in the stands had a whistle and blew it.

The only thing that is a bit strange is if an official thought Gordon's knee was down, why didn't he blow the play dead?

beartn#223846 writes:

I would like to know who blew the whistle. On the replay, they didn't blow it until Gordon had already run 10 or 20 yards downfield. None of the Vandy players stopped playing, as they chased him down the field.

cookieedwards#357400 writes:

in response to budd#207344:

Congrats to Mr. Gordon. Great play and I am glad he was the one to make it.

I seen Eric Gordon play in High School and he quite talented and should be starting. There must be a reason he is not however he will challenge receiver unlike Teague seems to play 8 yards off Receiver.I am not dogging Teague just saying he was better in slot. Zach Rogers has speed to play in secondary and maybe not the hands to play receiver.

Colliervol writes:

in response to volsreign:

Here's all that matters, Franklin: HE WASN'T DOWN! So what if some viewers think they heard a whistle? Obviously the players didn't hear one because nobody stopped playing so there was no advantage for us. I was there sitting in that endzone and I didn't hear a whistle. But again, if nobody on the field heard a whistle and everybody kept playing and HE WASN'T DOWN anyway, you don't have any reason to cry, coach Franklin.

Everybody is also forgetting that, even if they had called it back, we get the ball and all we have to do is play for a field goal and game over then too. Of course, Palardy was a bit shaky but odds are that he makes a 30 to 40 yard field goal even if we don't move the ball much. Momentum had swung big time and I like our chances of running it down their throat if we had gotten the ball.

volgrog#210164 writes:

in response to John_10065:

It is the #2 play on ESPN top 10 plays right now and I heard the whistle there too! LOL

Vandy will be complaining about that pick for the next 100 years.

So they aren't going to be upset about the first blown call but will be upset about the second blown call? I hope a Vandy fan gripes to me about that.

woodwr#217203 writes:

Referees want unpaid overtime to be over themselves.

First and ten at the twenty five would be pretty sure to end in a win, IF our kicking game were not so BAD.

Whoever called Gordon down didn't see the play very well and perhaps later denied blowing his whistle.

The whistle heard during the run back was VERY late, like ten plus yards of running late.

It wasn't like anyone could have caught him, whistle or not.

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to TommyJack:

Wake Forest my new favorite team.

demon deacons!

Rockytop38 writes:

Dooley was seen yelling something to someone and appeared to be upset in one clip during the hectic moments. Does anyone know what that was about??

Voluvr writes:

lol........lol....

Rockytop38 writes:

in response to Rockytop38:

Dooley was seen yelling something to someone and appeared to be upset in one clip during the hectic moments. Does anyone know what that was about??

Sorry bout' that..found the answer in previous post...

chuckfromwoodbury writes:

in response to UTKin1992:

Calm? Dooley went absolutely off the hook during the ending! Even my wife and daughters couldn't believe his lunatic behavior. Apparently some people have selective memories...

I bet your wife gave you permission to write this post. Does she ever take your boys out of the box she keeps them in so you can remember what is was like to be a man.

a330m#650327 writes:

If Franklin would try and take a win knowing that the guy was not down and it would be a mistake by the offical then he is a bigger jerk than i thought he was....how can you be glad about a win if you know the offical made a mistake...he wanted to rob the win on a mistake.....i have no respect for him....i hope he never beats Tennessee....jerks should never win....

a330m#650327 writes:

if they had given Tennessee the safety then we would not even be in overtime

BamaVol writes:

I was born and raised in Tennessee, I pull for all Tennessee teams including Vandy, "except when they play my Vols"

VFL

us43137415#376444 writes:

in response to FWBVol:

I thought I heard a whistle too, but my thought is maybe it wasn't an official's whistle. The drum major in the band has a whistle to get the band ready and Vandy's band was almost in front of where the play happened. Could it be the whistle came from some source other than the official?

That said, I think the officials did get it right. Even if they had ruled Gordon down we still get the ball playing for the win. IMO it just hastened the inevitable...that we were going to beat Vandy.

No, no.. the side judge said later, he did in fact, blow his whistle.. luckily, Gordon did not hear it, or he would have stopped in mid-stride toward the end zone.

Players are trained to keep running and not stop if they don't hear a whistle.

navarrebeachvol writes:

in response to chuckfromwoodbury:

I bet your wife gave you permission to write this post. Does she ever take your boys out of the box she keeps them in so you can remember what is was like to be a man.

LOL...more likely in a pickle jar in the frig. baby gerbers

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features