BETH RUCKER,Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE — Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin said he chose not to run another play before the Volunteers attempted a potential game-winning field goal against Alabama in part because of the penalty disparity between the two teams.
Terrence Cody blocked a low kick by Daniel Lincoln on a 44-yard field goal attempt on the last play of the game to preserve the Crimson Tide's 12-10 win over the Vols on Saturday. The narrow win dropped Alabama (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) from the top spot in The Associated Press poll to No. 2.
Kiffin began milking the clock with about 35 seconds left, and Jonathan Crompton grounded the ball with 4 seconds to set up the attempt.
"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 Sunday.
Tennessee (3-4, 1-3), which entered the game as one of the least-penalized teams in the nation, was flagged eight times for 68 yards, while Alabama was charged with just one 10-yard penalty.
Kiffin said he was disappointed not only with the difference in calls but also with a possible unsportsmanlike penalty that wasn't called.
After Cody blocked the field goal attempt, he removed and threw his helmet and ran across the field in celebration as time expired.
"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 said he discussed the play with SEC commissioner Mike Slive and had left phone messages for SEC coordinator of officiating Rogers Redding that hadn't been returned.
He also knows to expect a reprimand from the SEC for criticizing officials as Arkansas Bobby Petrino was for criticizing officiating in his team's loss to Florida on Oct. 17.
"I'm sure we'll get one of those letters that really means nothing as Bobby got last week, but Florida and Alabama live on," Kiffin said.
The Vols returned to practice on Sunday afternoon rather than Monday as they have done all season in an effort to put the game behind them more quickly.
Kiffin said he'd considered changing the team's practice schedule even before the Alabama loss to also give players more time on Monday for studying and planned on making the change permanent.
The Vols were upbeat during practice, and Kiffin said he thought they had recognized how much they had improved from the blowouts they suffered to the Crimson Tide in 2007 and 2008.
"For the guys that have been there, they've had two years of just getting run up and down the field by that team and getting dominated. So they see the difference. They see where they're going and it's a powerful message," he said.