Lane Kiffin Should Blame His Players, Not SEC Officials

Daniel McGowinCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2009

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 19:  Head coach Lane Kiffin of the Tennessee Volunteers watches the action prior to the game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Tennessee head football coach Lane Kiffin is complaining about a penalty that was not called.

In Tennessee’s game against Alabama on Saturday, the Volunteers attempted a game-winning kick to knock off the second-ranked team in the country.  Vols kicker Daniel Lincoln had a low-trajectory kick that Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody blocked. It was his second blocked kick of the game.

As the ball rolled around, Cody ran towards the Alabama sideline and removed his helmet.  Time expired and the Crimson Tide escaped with a 12-10 victory.

Kiffin argues, and rightfully so, that Cody should have been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Kiffin told The Knoxville Sentinel :

“To me, the rule is this: If a play is still going on, you can’t take your helmet off.

“The play is still going. The ball is sitting there. If Luke [Stocker, UT tight end] sees the ball he can pick it up and go score a touchdown and we win the game. The guy [Cody] throws his helmet, then two of their guys go recover the ball.

“It’s a 15-yard penalty and we kick again.”

Well, SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom commented to The Birmingham News that there was no time left and thus there could not be another play.

But there is more to it than the time.

From the NCAA Football 2009-10 Rules and Regulation (Rule 10, Section 2, Article 2, subsection IV):

A Team A player clips in Team B’s end zone when a scrimmage kick has touched a Team B player in the field of play and the loose ball is still a kick. RULING: Penalty—15 yards. Enforcement is either at the previous spot (Team A retaining possession) or at the spot where the subsequent dead ball belongs to Team B (emphasis added).

The rule uses a clipping call against the kick-defending team after the kick has been “touched” (blocked?).  What I gather from this rule is that Team B recovers the ball.  Thus, the penalty is assessed on the offending team, but that team is now in possession of the ball.

Applied to the Alabama-Tennessee game, Alabama should have been penalized.  But since they recovered the ball, the 15-yard penalty would be assessed after the change of possession.  First down, Alabama.  Ball game!

Now, because I am not sure if that is the correct rule, here is another (Rule 10, Section 2, Article 3, subsection I):

Either team fouls during a scrimmage kick after the ball has been touched beyond the neutral zone. The foul is more than three yards beyond the neutral zone, and Team A is not in legal possession when the ball is declared dead . RULING: For fouls by Team B, penalty enforcement will be by the Three-and-One Principle with the post-scrimmage kick spot as the basic spot (Rule 2-25-11). Team B’s ball, first and 10 . For fouls by Team A, penalty enforcement is either from the previous spot or from the spot where the subsequent dead ball belongs to Team B (Rule 6-3-13) (emphasis added).

So, again, kick is blocked and the kick-defense team recovers the ball (read: “Team A is not in legal possession when the ball is dead”).  But again, if Team B commits the penalty, they still maintain possession.  First down, Alabama.  Ball game!

Either way, even if the penalty was called, Alabama recovered the blocked kick.  Because the penalty occurred while the ball was not in possession of either team, it came down to who got the ball.  In this case, Alabama jumped on the ball.

As it was, there was no penalty and Alabama still recovered the blocked kick.

If Kiffin wants to complain, he should get on his own team and not the SEC officials.  Why did half of his special team unit run away from the ball!?  It seemed they had no idea where it was after Cody swatted it.

That is on his own team.  As Kiffin stated, “The play is still going. The ball is sitting there.”

So where was your team running to, Lane?  Why did your players not get on the ball that was just "sitting there?"

I think Kiffin's ire is misplaced.

This article first appeared at Uncle Popov's Drunken Sports Rant on October 26, 2009.