In the first overtime of the Tennessee Volunteers‘ heartbreaking 34-31 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday, wide receiver Alton ‘Pig’ Howard fumbled the ball out of the end zone while attempting to dive for a touchdown. The play was called a touchback, the Bulldogs were awarded the ball and kicked the game-winning field goal on the next possession.
That’s a devastating play and obviously one that could keep many down, but Howard has received nothing but support so far.
“Not one person came to me saying anything negative about it,” Howard told the Associated Press Tuesday night. “I’ve been getting all positive talk. I respect everyone for it.”
His teammates have been especially supportive.
“That was an effort play,” Volunteers’ wide receiver Jason Croom said. “We never doubted him. It wasn’t like he just threw the ball away. He was trying to make a play for us to win. Stuff happens.”
In the game, Howard, a sophomore out of Edgewater High School in Orlando, Florida, had four catches for 70 yards and six rushes for 46 yards. On the season, he’s hauled in 15 receptions for 218 yards and two touchdowns and has rushed 10 times for 75 yards.
The Volunteers have a bye this week and will try to get their first SEC win when they host the South Carolina Gamecocks on October 19.