One play stood out above all others in Tennessee’s 35-13 loss to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night.
Trailing 28-13 in the fourth quarter, Tennessee drove all the way down to the Alabama 1-yard line. UT coach Jeremy Pruitt kept his offense on the field and quarterback Jarrett Guarantano attempted to jump and reach the ball over the pile on a QB sneak. Guarantano fumbled, and Alabama’s Trevon Diggs scooped up the loose ball and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown.
Guarantano’s fumble led to a furious reaction from Pruitt, who briefly grabbed Guarantano by the facemask as he walked back to the sideline.
In the aftermath, both Guarantano’s gaffe and Pruitt’s reaction drew a lot of attention. During his Monday press conference, Pruitt said he spoke with Guarantano on Sunday and the two have “moved on.” The coach was not specifically asked about grabbing his player by the facemask.
“We talked about it yesterday. It’s pretty obvious what happened. It’s over with and we’ve moved on,” Pruitt said. “There’s lots of mistakes that were made in that game and I made more than anybody on our sideline. We’ve got to do a better job as coaches and players where we don’t make mistakes.”
Did Guarantano not run the play that was called?
On the play, Guarantano appeared to take matters into his own hands instead of following through with the play that was called by the coaches. Based on the blocking scheme — where the left guard pulled and the tackle and additional blocker on the end of the formation blocked down — the play looked like a handoff to the running back.
Had Guarantano stuck to the plan, Tennessee could have cut Alabama’s lead to 28-20 with more than seven minutes to play. Instead, it resulted in a game-sealing touchdown for the Crimson Tide.
“That’s one play in the game. There was lots of plays in the game. There’s lots of decisions in the game that maybe could have changed the course of the game. That was one play. Unfortunately it was an important play but we’re moving on now,” Pruitt said.
Guarantano went ROGUE on this QB Sneak. Jim Chaney had a great play call dialed up — A G Lead Power Run that would’ve WALKED into the Endzone and made it a one score game.— Jordan Rodgers (@JRodgers11) October 21, 2019
Watch this 👇🏽 pic.twitter.com/qzqoLyfjkx
Pruitt: ‘I’m going to coach him hard’
Guarantano was in the game after Brian Maurer suffered a concussion in the first half. It was Maurer’s second concussion in two weeks and Pruitt was unsure if he will be able to play in Tennessee’s next game against South Carolina.
If Maurer can’t play, Pruitt would not commit to Guarantano getting the nod over third-stringer J.T. Shroud. Pruitt, however, made sure to reaffirm his belief and trust in Guarantano, who began the season as his starter.
“Coaches have to earn players’ trust and players have to earn coaches’ trust. It goes hand in hand. Jarrett’s a guy that I’ve said many times before that I believe in. I think he has what it takes, but I do think he needs to be more consistent with the right intangibles so he can play at a little higher level. He knows that. We talked yesterday,” Pruitt said.
“That game’s over with. We got to learn from it. We got to move on. After the Georgia game I said that he would help us win some games this year and he did last week against Mississippi State. He’s a guy that’s going to continue to go to work. Me and him have a relationship. I’m going to coach him hard. I’m going to coach all of our players hard. He’s a guy that I believe in, OK? And I still do. I haven’t wavered in that.”
Pruitt not happy with officiating
Pruitt also did not hesitate to voice his opinion on the officiating in Saturday night’s game. He said he went back and watched the tape and there were “three or four things” that he complained about during the game that were actually correct calls. But there was still plenty to question.
“There’s probably three or four other things that happened in that game that I don’t agree with. And there’s nothing that [SEC coordinator of officiating] Steve [Shaw] could tell me or anybody else could tell me that I would agree with what happened in the game,” Pruitt said.
Pruitt was especially miffed about an unnecessary roughness call on defensive lineman Darrell Taylor and said he wants more consistency and accountability out of the SEC’s officials
“The call on Darrell Taylor was absolutely not a penalty. It’s not a penalty, OK?” Pruitt said. “Would it have changed the game? I don’t know. I know they would have punted instead of going on and scoring on that possession. Could they have scored the next possession? Sure. Was there a couple of things in there where I felt like they took shots at our quarterback? Absolutely.”
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