Remember when baseball umpires used to be criticized for being so stubborn for not consulting with other members of their crew when a tough call was made? They didn’t want any help. Now, the umpires seem to conference all the time, and that’s a good thing.
What’s also a good thing is that we saw college officials during the early games of Week 10 on Saturday confer on several calls in many different games. But none was more important than the meeting between the officials that took place in the end zone at the end of the Michigan-Iowa game.
Here was the situation: Michigan trailed Iowa 24-16 with 12 seconds left in the game and had the ball, second-and-goal at the Iowa 3-yard line. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson attempted a 3-yard pass to Junior Hemingway, who attempted to make a great, one-handed catch. The call that was made on the field was an incomplete pass. After a review, the play stood as called.
I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was.
This is different than the reversal at the end of the Wisconsin-Michigan State game two weeks ago. That reversal was based merely on facts. The only question in that game was whether the tip of the ball broke the plane of the goal line, which it did.
The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.
Once again, a Big Ten replay official made the right decision at a critical time.
And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.
Let’s take a look at some of the other interesting plays from the early Saturday games.
THE GAME: LSU at Alabama
THE SITUATION: Alabama had the ball, first-and-10 at the LSU 28-yard line with 10:40 left in the game. The score was tied 6-6.
THE PLAY: Alabama receiver Marquis Maze, taking the snap out of the wildcat formation, threw a pass which was intercepted by Eric Reid at the LSU 1-yard line.
MY TAKE: A tight play, but the right call. In order to be considered simultaneous, both players must possess the ball and come down to the ground at the same time. Without that, it’s basically survival of the fittest. Reid clearly took the ball away before it was completed. This play is not reviewable. Who is ruled to have recovered a fumble or intercepted a pass is only reviewable if it occurs in the end zone or at the sideline. In my opinion, the SEC officials made the right call.
THE GAME: Texas Tech at Texas
THE SITUATION: Texas Tech had the ball, first-and-goal at the Texas 2-yard line with 10:35 left in the first quarter. There was no score.
THE PLAY: Texas Tech quarterback Seth Dodge completed a 2-yard pass to Eric Ward for a touchdown. A penalty on Texas Tech offensive lineman Justin Keown nullified the touchdown and put the ball back to the Texas 17-yard line.
MY TAKE: The NFL has the 2- and 5-minute timing rules. Officials have their own 2 and 5 rule: You basically have two officials watching five offensive lineman block in pass protection. The referee and umpire are mostly responsible for the center, two guards and two tackles. Sometimes it’s a crapshoot as to who gets watched and who doesn’t. In this case, referee Scott Novak picked the right guy and got Keown for grabbing the defender’s face mask. It took away a touchdown on the FX Game of the Week and actually was just one in a sequence of really good officiating calls where two solid pass interference penalties were made in the end zone against Texas. By the way, pass interference in the college game doesn’t automatically put the ball at the 2-yard line. If the ball is snapped outside the 17-yard line and the pass interference occurs in the end zone, the full 15 yards is enforced from the line of scrimmage. That’s why the second pass interference left the ball at the 4-yard line — the snap was from the 19.
THE GAME: Minnesota at Michigan State
THE SITUATION: Michigan State had the ball, third-and-10 at the Michigan State 44-yard line with 31 seconds left in the third quarter. Minnesota led 24-21.
THE PLAY: Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins was scrambling out of the pocket and, as he was being tackled, attempted to throw/lateral the ball to Le’Veon Bell. The ball hit the ground, Bell picked it and, as some defenders stopped, raced to the end zone for what was ruled a touchdown on the field. The replay official determined that Cousins’ throw was a forward pass and the play was ruled an incomplete pass and the call was reversed.
MY TAKE: It took a long time to come up with this decision, but that’s because there were two critical things to review. In order of sequence, the replay official first had to review if Cousins’ knee was down before he attempted to throw the pass to Bell. It wasn’t ruled down, so they could have reversed that and put him down. If he was ruled down, they couldn’t review it. Once they concluded there was no indisputable video evidence to show that Cousins’ knee was down, the replay official had to move on to determine whether the pass was forward or backward. That was relatively easy. The ball left Cousins’ hand on one side of the 40-yard line and touched the ground on the other side of the 40. Now that they had that figured out, they had to go back and look to see where the clock was when the ball hit the ground. They also had to go back and find the spot where the ball was snapped, since the ruling of an incomplete pass puts the ball back at the previous spot. Sometimes there is a legitimate reason why reviews take so long, and this was a good job by the replay official to put together all of this information.
THE GAME: Syracuse at Connecticut
THE SITUATION: Syracuse had the ball, second-and-9 at the Connecticut 40-yard line with 12:49 left in the third quarter. The score was tied 7-7.
THE PLAY: Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib completed an 8-yard sideline pass to Van Chew. Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni challenged that Chew didn’t catch the ball in bounds. The call on the field was confirmed by the replay official.
MY TAKE: This might be a bit surprising. If I were a coach, I would not challenge a play unless there was 1,000 percent indisputable evidence that it would be overturned. This play was ruled a catch on the sideline and the replay official saw enough not to stop play to review it. Here’s the deal: One of the worst things a replay official can have happen to him is to have not stopped a play, have it challenged and then end up reversing the ruling on the field. It’s the replay official’s job, not the coach’s, to stop the play if it’s that close. In the replay official’s mind, he’s already confirmed in his mind that the call on the field was right, so he’s not likely to change it unless other video is presented. So listen up, all you coaches, the chances of getting a reversal on a challenge are slim — and none. That’s my free tip of the day.
THE GAME: Minnesota at Michigan State
THE SITUATION: Michigan State had the ball, third-and-11 at the Minnesota 18-yard line with 10:08 left in the second quarter. The score was tied 14-14.
THE PLAY: Michigan State was called for a false start. Michigan State’s Cousins then spiked the ball and Michigan State was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
MY TAKE: I like this call and it led to two penalties being enforced against the offense. I think that after a false start, it’s OK for a quarterback to toss the ball away so the defense knows he doesn’t have the ball. On the other hand, it’s not OK to wind up and forcefully spike the ball. You are not allowed to spike the ball in college, period. The interesting thing in this case is that both penalties are enforced. In the NFL, this would be considered multiple fouls on the offense and only one penalty would be enforced. The defense would decline the false start and accept the unsportsmanlike conduct. We could spend an entire day talking about the rule differences from Saturday to Sunday — or from the NCAA to the NFL.