Dooley won't blame officials

Publicly, Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is blaming himself, his assistants and his players for Saturday's gut-wrenching 16-14 loss at LSU. Coming from a coach who preaches accountability, that's as it should be.

"There's certainly a lot of things we could've done to change the outcome," Dooley said mere minutes into his Monday news conference. "At the end of the game, regardless of the other team's administration, regardless of the administration of the game by the officials, we could've done our part better.

"A championship football team does that. It's poised. Everybody on the field recognizes what's happening, and we could've avoided what happened at the end had we been a little more poised and aware as a team."

Still, the Vol boss hinted that the review he sends to the SEC office this week will feature considerable criticism of the officiating crew that worked the Vol-Tiger contest.

Here's why:

- LSU routinely inserted offensive personnel, then quickly snapped the ball while Tennessee was trying to react with defensive substitutions. Officials are supposed to ensure the defense gets sufficient time to respond to offensive substitutions. This crew occasionally failed to do so. On one such occasion Dooley had to call a timeout, during which he complained to the nearest official. The official conceded that the complaint was valid, Dooley said, but refused to restore the timeout to Tennessee.

- LSU center T-Bob Hebert threw his helmet in disgust when his shotgun snap eluded quarterback Jordan Jefferson on what should have been the game's final play, apparently sealing a 14-10 Vol victory. Removing a helmet while on the field is considered unsportsmanlike conduct and carries a 15-yard penalty. Officials correctly penalized Tennessee half the distance to the goal for having 13 men on the field but did not penalize LSU for Hebert's violation. Had they done so, LSU's do-over would've begun outside the Vol 15-yard line, rather than inside the Vol 1-yard line.

"They would've snapped it on the 15 and a-half yard-line," Dooley said. "It would've been a dead ball, even though it was during the play. I think all of those plays are treated as dead balls. That's my understanding.

"I'm just talking in hypothetical terms, but had they thrown the flag (for) unsportsmanlike and illegal participation, I think it would've been half-the-distance and then back 15 (yards)."

SEC coaches send a review of the officiating to the league office following their game each week. It's a safe bet that Dooley's review complained bitterly regarding the officiating crew's failure to give Tennessee's defense adequate time to respond to LSU's offensive substitutions and also the crew's failure to call an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Hebert.

When asked about this, however, Dooley hedged a bit.

"We turned in a lot of calls to the conference office," the coach said, choosing his words carefully. "We do that every week. That's not unique to this game.

"That's not really something I want to comment on or should comment on."

Asked if he turned in more calls than usual for the SEC office to scrutinize this week, Dooley hedged again.

"I don't want to get into that, either," he said.

At this point the Vol coach began nervously rearranging the media tape recorders that lay on the table in front of him, moving each one an inch farther away. Perhaps he was symbolically distancing himself from the topic.

Regardless, Dooley then returned to the initial point of his news conference:

"Look, guys, don't forget what I said: We could've controlled the outcome of the game, despite everything that happened," he said. "I won't back down from that because it's true. For us to say we could've or should've (won) ... we're not being true to ourselves. We could've done better.

"And if we're going to become a championship team, that's what we've got to do. That's the standard."


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