Graning: Tennessee blew it right before half

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2003

In my Sept. 9 column I stated that, in my opinion, each and every play during a football game directly impacts the result of that game but remarked that the dropped pass by Ole Miss in its game against Memphis certainly turned it game around and led to the Memphis win.

Well, Saturday night Tennessee practically gave away its game with Georgia on one single play.

If you didn’t see the game on TV, Tennessee was trailing Georgia 13-7 with seven seconds left in the half. The Vols had a third-and-goal situation Georgia’s 1-foot line.

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Planning to try one pass into the end zone before kicking a field goal if the pass failed to score a touchdown, Tennessee’s quarterback rolled out to his right but bumped into his fullback and fumbled.

A Georgia player picked up the loose ball and ran 94 yards for a touchdown.

Instead of going into halftime leading 14-13 or at least within 13-10, Tennessee was then behind Georgia 20-7 and had lost all momentum.

Fortunately, neither of the plays I’ve talked about involved officiating calls. I have been asked about the so-called celebration rule in college football.

This is covered in Rule 9, &uot;Conduct of Players and Others Subject to Rules.&uot;

Section 2, Article 1, a, 1 states: &uot;No player, coach, substitute or other person subject to the rules shall use obscene or vulgar language or gestures or engage in acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials, or to the image of the game including pointing of finger(s), hand(s), arm(s) or ball at an opponent; baiting or insulting an opponent verbally; inciting an opponent or spectators in any other way; any excessive, delayed, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves); obviously altering stride as an unopposed runner approaches the opponents goal line; or removal of a player’s helmet before he is in the team area (There are exceptions to the helmet rule, such as timeouts, injuries, between periods, through play, etc.)

There is more to this, but those are the most obvious to the fan. The penalty is 15 yards. Flagrant violations may result in player disqualification, and in any case two violations by the same player does result in disqualification.

Also, during the second half after a play which resulted in a Georgia interception of a Tennessee pass, a scuffle began.

It was quickly quelled by the officiating crew, almost all of whom dropped a flag.

Though a Georgia player was obviously kicked out of the game, to my knowledge, no penalty was enforced or even signaled. If that player was disqualified for fighting or even inciting a fight, he would be ineligible for his team’s next game.

Disqualification for an unsportsmanlike act does not result in a next-game carryover, so that is most likely what happened.

I look forward to learning the exact explanation of this play and will pass it along when I find out.

And that’s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. You can reach him at