Hot time in Tuscaloosa town; Wait, there’s a flag on the field

Marvin Westwestwords

In an eruption that would have rattled Mount Vesuvius, Jeremy Pruitt told Jarrett Guarantano exactly what he thought of the decisive play in the Alabama game.

“Xrzmpoo xxxx qsdbwk and 售货员” times three. That is Chinese or another unknown tongue for what the coach actually said.

The outburst included some serious finger-pointing and Jeremy grasping Jarrett’s face mask to guarantee undivided attention. Considering that they are said to be friends, it did not look real cordial.

For public consumption, Pruitt chose the more gentle word “miscommunication” as his explanation. Several Vols echoed it as a talking point.

Guarantano, former starting quarterback back on duty as replacement for the injured Brian Maurer, may have been confused about the play call or may have improvised on fourth down with a foot to go for a touchdown that really mattered midway through the fourth quarter. The net result was complete chaos and a 14-point swing.

With at least some linemen expecting something else, Jarrett took the snap and tried a sneak. Instead of burrowing, he chose to go over the top of tangled big bodies, tried to stretch the football to the goal, lost it and heard the roar of delight as Tide defensive back Trevon Diggs scooped it up and sped from that end zone to the other.

It was a knockout run, a quick illustration of Murphy’s law, symbolic of seasons of pain and suffering and possibly permanent agony. Well, if not all that, it was, at the very least, bad.

Guarantano success would have reduced the deficit to eight. Failure turned into 35-13.

Right then and there, Alabama fans ignored cancer warnings and “no smoking” signs and fired up traditional victory cigars. Women claimed equal rights. Only a few snowflakes turned up their noses. Thirteen consecutive wins over Tennessee are still worthy of modest celebration.

Some other intriguing (or strange) things happened in Tuscaloosa. Pruitt asked his team to compete without worrying about the scoreboard. The Volunteers showed fierce grit and toughness in defying their 35-point underdog role. They made the game far more competitive than most thought possible.

Tennessee looked somewhat like the team many expected in June and July. I do believe the Vols are improving. If you are the sarcastic type, you might say “about time.”

Without Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama obviously didn’t resemble itself. He was 11-of-12 passing for 155 yards before retiring in the second quarter with an ankle injury. This is a potential disaster. The Tide might not win the national championship without Tua.

Nigel Warrior picked off a Tua pass and ran it back 59 yards. Tim Jordan had a really good evening. Daniel Bituli was ejected again for targeting. Darrell Taylor drew a 15-yard penalty for being a bully. As he was getting up from making a tackle, he pushed an Alabama face into the turf. For shame, for shame.

Tennessee did other dumb things and fuzzy officiating made some look worse than they were. The Vols were penalized 13 times. Payment for additional violations was declined. One play generated a flurry of yellow flags for three different fouls. One lineman was charged with holding when, in fact, he knocked an opponent backward and gave him an additional push.

Before drop-the-hanky night, Tennessee was the second least penalized team in the SEC.

Can’t say for sure that Nick Saban eased up in the closing minutes for the benefit of Pruitt, his former valued assistant, but it seemed Alabama felt no need to score more. There were no passes into the end zone. I liked that. It might have been respect.

The second concussion for Maurer in eight days and the Pruitt eruption create a dilemma with South Carolina coming to town. The Gamecocks are favored by a few points but a victory is possible. This is the beginning of a segment of the season when some negativity could be frosted over.

What happens this Saturday and perhaps later hinges on the answers to a few quarterback questions:

How long will Maurer remain in recovery? Can Guarantano reassemble the pieces of his football life? Will caustic fans be unmerciful?

How many plays are possible from Jauan Jennings in the wildcat formation? Can J.T. Shrout be instantly coached up to combat standards?

Carolina might arrive in a bad humor. On Oct. 12, it knocked off highly regarded Georgia in Athens. Two days ago it lost at home to Florida in a driving rain. It had the lead going into the fourth quarter but things fell apart.

The Gators got a TD off an illegal pick play. Officials, convenient whipping boys, were blamed for missing that and for several other controversial calls and non-calls. Coach Will Muschamp became irate. He was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

He didn’t debate whether he deserved it or not but he resented the flag coming from a distance.

“I’d rather he drop it at my feet. … Don’t go 40 yards away and then drop the flag … gutless.”

Could be football is reaching the inflammatory stage. We are told that in the SEC, it just matters more.

Marvin West welcomes reader remarks or questions. His address is

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