Just following the rules

Saturday's Tennessee-Kentucky football game featured 1084 yards, 13 passing touchdowns, 102 points and one blatant penalty that wasn't assessed.

On the final play of the second overtime, Tennessee's Dan Williams blocked a field-goal attempt by Kentucky's Lones Seiber. Vol defensive end Antonio Reynolds scooped up the loose ball, then lateraled to safety Eric Berry, who might have scored if not for being tackled by the face-mask. A flag was thrown but no penalty was assessed.

Naturally, Vol fans were enraged but the officials had no choice. They were merely following the rules as they are written.

"There's a different set of rules for overtime," said Rocky Goode, a Knoxville native and long-time SEC official. "Basically, any live-ball foul that occurs AFTER a change of possession is declined by rule."

In other words, once the ball changed hands, the Wildcats were free to use any means necessary to bring down Berry without incurring a penalty. That doesn't seem fair.

"I agree with you 100 percent," Goode said. "Sometimes the rule book isn't fair. But the officials were merely administering the rule as it is written."

By conceding that the rule book isn't always fair, Goode was not second-guessing other officials. They don't make the rules in the first place.

"Our coaches make up the rules," Goode said. "There is not an official on the Rules Committee. It's all coaches."

Mere minutes after the face-mask violation went unpenalized, Tennessee fans were angry again. Stopped short of the goal line on a two-point conversion run on the final play of Overtime No. 3, Vol tailback Arian Foster flung the ball in frustration. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct – a penalty which was assessed, forcing Tennessee to open Overtime No. 4 at the UK 40-yard line, instead of the 25.

So, why was one penalty assessed and not the other?

"One is a live-ball foul, meaning it occurred DURING the play," Goode said, referring to the face-mask penalty. "The other (on Foster) was a dead-ball foul, meaning it occurred AFTER the play. All dead-ball fouls are administered, and Foster's was a dead-ball foul."

Bottom line: One player was penalized for flinging the ball in disgust while another player was not penalized for blatantly grabbing a face-mask. That's a situation the Rules Committee might want to address during the offseason.

"There's always discussion of tightening up the rules," Goode said.

Here's a perfect example: Several years ago a player could purposely fumble the ball forward on fourth down, enabling a teammate to recover and advance it beyond the first-down marker. This loophole eventually was closed, so that the fumbler was the only offensive player who could advance the ball after recovering a fourth-down fumble.

Goode believes the rule regarding overtime penalties could be revised in the next year or so.

"What happens is that plays like this will create interest," Goode said. "Then the rules committee may take a look at this in January and February."


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