Ole Miss defeated Tennessee 31-26 on Saturday night in Lane Kiffin’s highly-anticipated return to Neyland Stadium.
The win did not come without controversy.
After the game angry fans threw glass bottles, golf balls and an assortment of other projectiles onto the field to express their displeasure with what had transpired.
It was an objectively unseemly display by the losing’s side’s supporters, but no doubt at least partially due to frustration over how the game was ultimately officiated. Had the outing been called fairly, the Volunteers likely would’ve emerged with a win of their own.
Obviously emotions were raw heading into this one. Many desperately wanted to see this actually-good 4-2 Tennessee squad punish Kiffin’s 4-1 Ole Miss group for how he had used and abused the Vols over his one season with the program. That took the stakes up a notch.
A powder keg of emotions slowly but surely built up throughout the evening.
It began in the first quarter, when Ole Miss tried to convert a 4th-and-3 at the Vols 45 only to see a pair of Tennessee defenders read the play perfectly and seemingly force a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Unfortunately, upon play review, refs determined that Matt Corral’s forward progress was stopped and took the score off the board. Instead, they gave the ball to Tennessee at midfield – which eventually led to a punt.
oh my god tyler baron scoop and score pic.twitter.com/3MQaCYHgJc
— RockyTopTalk (@RockyTopTalk) October 17, 2021
That set the tone for what would occur in the final minute of the game and eventually precede the fan outrage that led to items being thrown onto the field.
With slightly less than a minute remaining in the game, the referees on the field ruled that Tennessee tight end Jacob Warren got stopped just short of the first-down marker on a 4th-and-24 play in a questionable spot.
When the call on the field was upheld by the officials – fans snapped.
Video of the play in question is quite clear. It’s hard to blame Vols fans for feeling like they got robbed when the tape clearly shows that they did.
Again – certain behavior is inexcusable. And throwing stuff onto the field in a way that could hurt folks is never okay, but context matters. And actions caused by pent up frustration over a poorly officiated game make a lot more sense than those that occur spontaneously for no reason at all.
Poor refereeing has become something of a theme this season. In fact, aside from off-the-field problems like an SEC reporter getting criticized for dressing inappropriately and a player bullying an equipment manager in plain view of the cameras, this has been the story of the year in college football.
When Terry Bradshaw saw what Erin Andrews was wearing, he couldn’t help himself. https://t.co/Yg0qPqcErK
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 15, 2021
Between top-ranked squads getting robbed of victories and less notable programs being subjected to questionable calls, it has been one officiating disaster after another in 2021.
At some point, someone is going to need to step in and address this matter. Because if they don’t, the integrity of the game may suffer the sort of irreparable damage that nobody will ever be able to fix.