Butch Jones, face still raw and red from the cold, wouldn’t go there.
“No comment on the officials today,” the Tennessee football coach said while the cheering of raucous Vanderbilt players and fans could still be heard from outside the conference room in which the Vols conduct post-game interviews.
Vanderbilt came from behind for a 14-10 victory over Tennessee at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night. The Commodores’ crushing final drive will be remembered for one play. With less than a minute left and UT leading 10-7, officials overturned their original spot on Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels’ sneak on fourth-and-inches. The Vols went from chest bumping when Carta-Samuels was originally ruled short to realizing the Commodores were still marching. After video review, officials declared Vanderbilt had a first down at the UT 33.
A request for Jones’ reaction to the call was the first thing the coach encountered from the media. He eventually issued a generic response that could be tied loosely to the call.
“It’s a game of inches,” he said. “We always talk about that. And you know what? The inches got us today.”
Then Jones exited and senior defensive tackle Daniel Hood entered. He expressed no qualms with the overturned call. Instead he said it was expected.
“We were talking on the sideline that we knew they were going to get it, “ he said. “So we were kind of preparing for what to do next. How can we stop their next play? From that point on we just couldn’t get it done.”
Butch Jones talks after UT's 14-10 loss to Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt scored the go-ahead touchdown with 16 seconds left. Vanderbilt backup quarterback Patton Robinette out of Maryville High School tucked and ran five yards. It led to a stunned stadium and Hood adding another chapter in his book of hard luck. He touched on former coach Lane Kiffin jolting the Vols when he left UT for USC, and mentioned an earlier heartbreaking loss to Georgia this season, one that is remembered for the touchdown receiver Alton “Pig” Howard fumbled out of the end zone.
“That’s a burden we will shoulder,” he said. “Because we know we finally got the right coach here. And every person in that locker room believes that 100 percent. So we will carry that burden so guys in the future can win championships.”
While Hood could look ahead on a Senior Night that went wrong, he also gave a succinct explanation of a moment that will long be remembered.
“We went from the highest high to the lowest low,” he said.