The officiating crew involved in Saturday night's Florida-Tennessee game made a mistake when it stopped the clock after assessing a late-game penalty against Florida receiver Dallas Baker and will be reprimanded, the SEC said Sunday.
Florida led 28-27 with 55 seconds remaining when Baker was penalized 15 yards for retaliation, a personal foul.
Television replays showed Vols defensive back Jonathan Wade hitting Baker across the helmet with an open hand, then Baker swinging back. Officials stopped the clock until Eric Wilburpunted from the 23-yard line.
"After looking at it, it appears to me it should have been an offset, that both sides were equally responsible and then the clock should have started on the ready for play," said Bobby Gaston, coordinator of football officials for the SEC. "You just offset it and put the ball down where it was and wind the clock. They would probably have gotten 20 seconds off (the clock) before the kick."
Freshman quarterback Erik Ainge led the Vols on a six-play, 28-yard drive culminating with James Wilhoit's 50-yard field goal and a 30-28 win.
According to Gaston, NCAA rules state if the play had been an incomplete pass, the clock would not have started until the ensuing snap. Because it was a running play and the clock normally would have continued to run, it also should have run with the penalty.
Standing on the sideline Saturday night, Gaston immediately knew the call was in error. He said there is no way to know if the outcome would have been different with the correct call.
"It really has been upsetting," he said. "Any time our guys make a mistake, I'm just as sick as they are, you can imagine. They almost need therapy. It's really that bad. They are a very dedicated crew and they really work hard to try to get everything just perfect."
The seven-man crew will be reprimanded.
"There will be accountability, but we do not make public what we do," Gaston said. "All are responsible for the clock errors."
UF athletic director Jeremy Foley contacted the SEC and was told of the decision. Coach Ron Zooksaid he has to move on: "I'm going to get this game cleaned up, then go on to Kentucky and that's going to be my focus."
Vols coach Phil Fulmer said mistakes are an unfortunate part of the game and that Tennessee has been on the receiving end against Florida.
"I guess things go around sometimes. We complained loudly about a dropped ball up here a few years ago or a supposed catch," he said, referring to the controversial 3-yard touchdown catch by Jabar Gaffney in the 2000 game UF won 27-23. "That's the way it goes sometimes. Those officials are human. They do the best they can and I thought the crew for the most part did an exceptional job."
FAMILIAR REFRAIN: The locker room was described as "quiet." Florida players used words such as "tough" and "emotional" to describe the Gators' second straight loss to the archrival Vols. But the general consensus seems to be the Gators won't have any trouble putting the Tennessee game behind them and moving on to Kentucky this week.
"The game is over now and we can't spend too much time thinking about it," said running back DeShawn Wynn, who rushed for 59 yards on 15 carries. "The season still has a long way to go. We are in the same situation as we were last year when we lost to Tennessee. We have got to run the table pretty good and see where we go from here. It was a good game. It was a dogfight like we planned on it being."
RISSLER OUT: Offensive lineman Steve Rissler did not play because of a broken nose and a leg infection, Zook said.
PROPS FOR LEAK: His team lost, but Florida quarterback Chris Leakhad a stellar game.
He threw for a career-high 286 yards and his 81-yard TD to Chad Jackson also was a career best.
"That Chris Leak is really good," defensive back Brandon Johnson said. "(Saturday night) was about responding. He responded."
It was Johnson's tipped pass that led to Jackson's touchdown.
_ ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times staff writer