One of the most painful events inflating the balloon of frustration that UT finally burst in a 23-21 win over South Carolina could have returned to bite the Vols in a disastrously ironic way had the final moments of Saturday's game unfolded differently.
After a 14-yard run by Marlin Lane to the South Carolina 2-yard line in the game's waning moments, quarterback Justin Worley and the UT offense allowed the clock to run down from 27 seconds before finally snapping and spiking the football with 3 seconds left to set up Michael Palardy's game-winning field goal as time expired.
Had the Vols committed a penalty during the spike play or the subsequent field goal, a required 10-second clock runoff would have occurred, meaning the game would have ended with UT trailing 21-20.
A yellow flag on the Vols would have spelled another excruciating loss.
It would have made 20 straight defeats to ranked opponents.
"We did consider that," Jones said Monday at his weekly press luncheon. "But we pride ourselves in being a disciplined football team and we're going to rely on our discipline down the stretch."
The irony lies in the rule requiring the 10-second runoff. It was born partly out of UT's 30-27 loss to North Carolina in the 2010 Music City Bowl.
In that game, North Carolina was penalized for having too many players on the field when it spiked the ball with 1 second remaining in regulation.
But at that time, the 10-second runoff rule was not in place, so even though the disorganized Tar Heels were penalized, they were allowed to absorb the penalty and kick the game-tying field goal that sent the game into overtime where they won the game 30-27.
The head coaches of both teams had already shaken hands at midfield when the referees ruled that North Carolina still had one second to work with.
For the 2010 Vols, it was the second time a win was stripped from their grasp after the clock showed no time remaining.
A similar situation occurred that year with the Vols on the verge of knocking off No. 12 LSU. The Tigers received an untimed down on the goal line after a penalty on the Vols. LSU delivered with a touchdown to avoid the upset.
Jones was not at UT for those dramatic losses, and though he had a firm grasp on the rule on Saturday, his faith in the discipline of his team outweighed the risk associated with attempting the field goal earlier and then kicking off to South Carolina with time still remaining.
"Our thought process, if you noticed, we had two huddles," Jones said. "We had the first group out there, and there's so much that goes into just kicking that game-winning field goal. So, we had the first huddle lined up. We had the second huddle lined up ready to go. With that timeout, we were able to remind our kids the discipline."
As Jones left the podium on Monday, he joked with the media and circled back to the time management question by admitting how much that late-game decision weighed on his mind, even after it resulted in a monumental UT victory.
"That was a good question by the way," he said. "I've been beating myself up over that."
Added Jones: "I have a journal and I go to all the game-end situations and I chart it all and review it. But if we kickoff, there's always that (potential) Music City miracle."