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Pereira: Irish lucky on two big calls

Image: Stanford's Stepfan Taylor tries to score against Notre Dame (© Matt Cashore/US Presswire)
Stanford's Stepfan Taylor (No. 33) gets stuffed in OT, but may have been robbed by refs.
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Mike Pereira

Mike Pereira was the NFL's Vice President of Officiating from 2004-09, having spent the five seasons previous to that as the league's Director of Officiating. He also served as an NFL game official when he acted as a side judge for two seasons (1997-98). Follow him on Twitter.

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Was there a Cardinal sin committed in South Bend on Saturday?

Maybe two.

No. 7 Notre Dame beat No. 17 Stanford, 20-13, in overtime. But in my opinion, the Irish had the benefit of two controversial calls that not only helped the Irish tie the game to force overtime, but also prevented the Cardinal from scoring the game-tying touchdown in overtime.

Let's start with the the last play of the game. Here was the situation: Stanford had the ball, fourth-and-goal from the Notre Dame 1-yard line in overtime, with the Irish leading 20-13. Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor appeared to be stopped at the goal line, but on second effort, turned and fell into the end zone. The ruling on the field was that Taylor was stopped short and after a review, the call stood.

I've looked at the play from every angle and I think the call should have been reversed to a touchdown. Forward progress was not ruled and there was not a whistle that was blown before Taylor was ruled down. The ball broke the plane before it came loose, which makes that aspect of it irrelevant.

The first thing that needs to be established is whether or not the ball broke the plane of the goal line. That seemed pretty easy to see. The ball did come loose, but had already broken the plane.

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Was Stanford's Stepfan Taylor down or did he get into the end zone?

The officials then needed to determine if Taylor was down. This was one of those plays that you had to look at from every angle. The closest part of Taylor's body to the ground was his left elbow, but it seemed pretty apparent to me that by piecing the different shots together that the elbow did not touch the ground until after the ball had crossed the plane.

The shot that convinces me is the field-level shot from inside, not the shot from the outside that is down the goal line. Taylor extends the ball beyond the plane before the elbow is down.

One thing you may not know: In college, the review decision is made totally by the replay official upstairs in the booth, not the officials down on the field.

The second play came on Notre Dame's game-tying drive. Here was the situation: Notre Dame had the ball, first-and-16 at the Notre Dame 47-yard line with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter and Stanford led 13-10. Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson carried the ball four yards, but as he was being tackled and going to the ground, he was hit in the helmet area by Stanford's Usua Amanam. Stanford was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.

Of course, I have the luxury of watching it in slow motion, but to me, this shouldn't have been called a foul. Golson was being tackled and was almost to the ground when hit by Amanam with his upper arm, not his shoulder or helmet.

Golson was a runner at this point and he should not have been deemed defenseless unless, as the rule states, he was already on the ground. He was not down when the contact occurred.

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Officials are told to err on the side of safety and I think that was the case here. But it's a big call at a big point in the game. I can see why the official made the call, because it looked a lot uglier in real time. But it's a call that I think should not have been made.

Stanford certainly had no luck on these two calls. All of that went to the Irish.

Here are a couple of other interesting plays from Saturday.

 


 

THE GAME: Oklahoma State at Kansas

THE SITUATION: Oklahoma State had the ball, fourth-and-3 from the Oklahoma State 12-yard line with 7:01 left in the third quarter. Oklahoma State led 17-0.

THE PLAY: OK State's Quinn Sharp punted the ball 53 yards to Daymond Patterson, who was tackled by Nico Ornelas, who was penalized for targeting.

MY TAKE: I don't consider this a foul. Mechanically, there might have been a breakdown on this play. Ornelas was pushed from behind by Kansas' Ray Mitchell into Patterson. That push in the back was not only enough to eliminate the possibility of a foul for targeting, but also should have been called an illegal block in the back.

The back judge, who is the deepest official in the middle of the field, is responsible for the covering the receiver of the kick. The field judge and side judge are responsible for the blocks that occur in front of the receiver. These are hard plays to officiate in real time, but if one of the officials would have called a block in the back, they would have picked up the flag for targeting.

 


 

THE GAME: Utah at UCLA

THE SITUATION: Utah had the ball, third-and-goal at the UCLA 2-yard line with 4:09 left in the fourth quarter. UCLA led 21-7.

THE PLAY: Utah quarterback Trevor Wilson carried the ball for one yard and was tackled by Eric Kendricks. When Wilson went to the ground in a pile, his helmet came off and he was forced to sit out a play because of the new rule instituted this season. Backup QB Jon Hays came in and threw a touchdown on fourth down.

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MY TAKE: This is not a very popular new rule. The intent of this rule change was to encourage players to properly get their helmets fitted and make sure that all four points of their chin straps were fastened. Rules makers felt that if you force players to miss a play, they would do everything they could to keep their helmets on.

A concern of many, and perhaps it happened on this play, was that an opponent would purposely pull off a helmet to force a player to have to sit out. I'm not so sure I agree with that. There's a huge risk in pulling a player's helmet off. If you're caught, it's a 15-yard penalty and automatic first down and the player gets to remain in the game. Officials are aware of this and you can be assured they are looking into the pile to make sure it doesn't happen.

In my opinion, the rule change is not working. There are still plenty of helmets that are coming off.

Tagged: Stanford, UCLA, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah, Stepfan Taylor, Everett Golson

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