Tennessee's Lane Kiffin acknowledged that he decided against running another play before his team set up for a field goal that would have beaten Alabama because he was fearful officials would have found another way to penalize his team.
Tennessee was one of the nation's least-penalized teams entering Saturday's game, but was flagged eight times for 68 yards. Alabama, which had been flagged 10 times for 113 yards the previous Saturday against South Carolina, was penalized only once for 10 yards.
"You run another play and you throw an interception or they throw another flag on us — I wasn't going to let the refs lose the game for us there and some magical flag appear," Kiffin said.
Instead, Kiffin sent in Daniel Lincoln to attempt a 44-yard field goal on the final play. It was blocked by Terrence Cody.
The beefy Alabama noseguard then took off his helmet and ran up the field to celebrate while the ball was still in play. Check the video.
"If a play's still going, you can't take your helmet off," Kiffin said. "A guy throws his helmet as the ball's still live. He throws his helmet and then two of their guys go and recover the ball. It's a 15-yard penalty, and you kick again."
Kiffin knew what was coming next.
"I'm sure we'll get one of those letters that mean nothing, that [Arkansas coach] Bobby [Petrino] got last week, but Florida and Alabama live on,'' Kiffin said.
Kiffin's letter arrived Monday. Mississippi State's Dan Mullen was also reprimanded.
If Kiffin is reprimanded one more time this year, he will be suspended by the SEC. Fortunately, he has assistant Ed Orgeron to carry on the fight.
Orgeron, the Mississippi coach from 2005-07, let the officials have it Monday night during an appearance before the Knoxville Quarterback Club.
"Seems like some people get the calls and some people don't," Orgeron said. "I've been in this league and I've been a part of that. Whether that's true or not, you can never prove that.
"I do know this: there were some very questionable calls in that game that could have went either way and they went Alabama's side. There were very questionable calls throughout the season and it seems they go for the better team. Whether that's true or not, we can never prove that but that's what it seems like."
Watch the last 1:02 of the Tennessee-Alabama game below. CBS analyst Gary Danielson remarks that Cody could have been penalized. "I don't want to get into these conspiracies anymore," Danielson said. "I'll let somebody else handle that."
We just did.