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When replay isn't needed, don't use it

Was it a catch? Pereira breaks down key play of the FX game.
Was it a catch? Pereira breaks down key play of the FX game.
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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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I just don’t know.

I just don’t know.

CFB

ASK MIKE

Our football refereeing guru is on Twitter and takes your questions during live events. See his latest tweets and his latest analysis.

Do you see any visual difference between those two sentences?

I know you don’t, but I did that to emphasize a point on replay. There were three instances in three different games on Saturday where calls on the field were reversed upon replay, and in each instance, in my mind, the rulings on the field should have stood as called.

This is where I start to worry about instant replay, whether it’s in the NCAA or the NFL, because sometimes I feel calls on extremely close plays are overturned without indisputable video evidence.

Here’s the philosophy that is stated in the NCAA rule book:

Rule 12, Section 1, Article 2: The instant replay process operates under the fundamental assumption that the ruling on the field is correct. The replay official may reverse a ruling if, and only if, the video evidence convinces him beyond all doubt that the ruling was incorrect. Without such indisputable video evidence, the replay official must allow the ruling the stand.

Remember those four words . . . "if, and only if."

Here are the three examples:

1. Auburn at Arkansas

Arkansas had the ball, third-and-goal from the Auburn 2-yard line with 9:51 left in the second quarter. Auburn led 14-7. Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson completed a 2-yard pass to Austin Tate for a touchdown. The replay official ruled that Tate was down at the 1-yard line and the call was reversed.

MY TAKE: You cannot conclusively tell that the ball had not broken the plane. Even if you tried to piece two views together, there is still an element of doubt. The ruling on the field was a touchdown, and I don’t feel replay should be used to dissect a play that really doesn’t have clear video evidence.

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2. Iowa State at Baylor

Iowa State had the ball, second-and-goal at the Baylor 7 with 10:32 left in the second quarter. The score was tied 7-7. Iowa State running back Jeff Woody rushed 7 yards for a touchdown. The replay official ruled that Woody was down at the 1-yard line and the call was reversed.

MY TAKE: You can see the back of the ball from the goal-line camera, but you don’t see the tip of the ball, and thus you cannot see whether the ball breaks the plane. I couldn’t begin to tell you whether it’s a touchdown. To me, it does not fit the guidelines that are established by the rule.

3. Missouri at Kansas State

Missouri had the ball, second-and-4 at the Kansas State 29 with 5:25 to go in the fourth quarter. Kansas State led 24-10. Missouri quarterback James Franklin completed a pass to Michael Egnew for 10 yards before the ball was ripped out of his hands by Kansas State’s Ty Zimmerman as Egnew was going down. The play was ruled a fumble that was recovered by Zimmerman. After a review, it was ruled that Zimmerman’s elbow was down and the called was overturned, giving the ball back to Missouri.

MY TAKE: This is another play that I don’t think should have been reversed. The ruling on the field was a fumble, and the ball looked to come out just prior to the elbow contacting the ground. Was there video evidence for the replay official to reverse this beyond all doubt? I don’t think so.

If, and only if, they would have let these calls stand, in these three instances, replay would have been more effective Saturday.

Here were some other interesting calls Saturday:

Michigan at Northwestern

THE SITUATION: Northwestern had the ball, fourth-and-5 from the Michigan 37 with 7:02 left in the game. Michigan led 35-24.

THE PLAY: Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa was sacked by Jordan Kovacs, but while Kovacs was pulling Persa to the ground, he pulled Persa’s helmet off. No penalty was called on that play. What’s more, while Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald was arguing about the no-call, he was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.

MY TAKE: Some face mask penalties an official should never miss. This is not one of them. When I watched this play in real time and even after the first replay, I did not think the face mask was grabbed. So many helmets come off, and often it has nothing to do with the face mask being pulled. In this case, however, the last replay indicated that Kovacs did grab the mask with his left hand. The referee, who is behind the quarterback, would never see this, and he is the only official who is watching the quarterback. It was a foul, but not all fouls can be seen. Coach Fitzgerald was penalized for running out on the field to argue, which is absolutely the correct call. You cannot let a coach come as far onto the field as Fitzgerald did to scream at the officials. It makes no difference whether there is a missed call. That cannot be allowed.

Florida at LSU

THE SITUATION: LSU had the ball, fourth-and-15 at the LSU 48 with 11 seconds to go in the first quarter. LSU led 14-0.

THE PLAY: LSU’s Brad Wing faked a punt and rushed 52 yards for a touchdown. Wing was called for taunting on the play, LSU was penalized 15 yards, and the ball was placed at the Florida 23-yard line. Three plays later, LSU had to settle for a field goal.

MY TAKE: This is the new rule that I really didn’t like in the first place. This was the first time I’ve seen it called, although it could have been called at some point and I just missed it. I just think the penalty is too severe for the act. I hate to see legitimate enthusiasm taken out of the game. This was a freshman, who most likely was on his way to scoring his first NCAA touchdown. The act of spreading his arms, in itself, was not enough for a foul. But he got himself in trouble when he turned toward two Florida defenders before crossing the goal line. By rule, this is a foul, although I seriously doubt a punter — a freshman at that — really is kept abreast of the rules regarding celebrations on the way to scoring a touchdown. The SEC supervisor of officials, Steve Shaw, issued a statement saying the rule that is stated in the rule book was accurately applied. A lesson learned for Wing — and for all of the other players in college football who see the replay.

Oklahoma vs. Texas

THE SITUATION: Oklahoma had the ball, second-and-10 at the Oklahoma 39 with 11:45 left in the third quarter. Oklahoma led 41-10.

THE PLAY: Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones completed a 4-yard pass to Dominique Whaley. Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles was called for an illegal block on Kenny Vaccarro, and the Sooners were penalized 15 yards.

MY TAKE: There are not many times when you can block below the waist anymore in college football. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops seemed to think that this was one time that you could. The new rule states that any offensive player lined up outside the tight end position can only block low straight up the field or toward the sideline on which he lined up. At no time can he turn toward the opposite sideline from where he lined up and block an opponent below the waist. That is exactly what happened here. It makes no difference that his opponent is directly in front of him. It’s solely about the direction of the block itself. Clearly the NCAA is concerned about leg injuries, and I would not be surprised if before too long all blocking below the waist will be illegal.

Arizona State at Utah

THE SITUATION: Arizona State had the ball after scoring a touchdown with 2:33 left in the third quarter. Arizona State led 19-14.

THE PLAY: Arizona State successfully converted the PAT, but Utah was called for defensive holding on the play and Arizona State accepted the penalty. The ball was placed half the distance to the goal, and ASU’s attempt on a two-point conversion was good when quarterback Brock Osweiler completed a pass to Aaron Pflugrad, giving the Sun Devils a 21-14 lead.

MY TAKE: How many of you have ever heard the term "pull and shoot"? It’s a practice that is more common than you would think — and it is illegal. The proper terminology is defensive holding. It’s a two-man defensive pass-rush game. One player grabs an offensive lineman and pulls him out of the way, which opens up a gap for a second player to rush in an attempt to block a kick. That’s exactly what happened here when Utah’s Keith McGill grabbed Tyler Sulka and pulled him out of the hole, allowing Brian Blechen a path to block the kick. It’s a very alert call by the officials, who often have a hard time making this call.

Georgia at Tennessee

THE SITUATION: Tennessee had the ball, third-and-16 from the Tennessee 34 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter. Georgia led 13-6.

THE PLAY: Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray completed a pass to Marlin Lane for 13 yards. As Georgia’s Michael Gilliard was making the tackle, he spun Lane down and it appeared that Lane didn’t hit the ground, instead spinning off Gilliard’s body. Lane kept running and scored a touchdown. The replay official ruled that Lane’s body had touched the ground, thus the call was reversed and the ball was placed at the Tennessee 47.

MY TAKE: This was a tough play to officiate because it looked like the runner was down on top of the defender’s body. However, when you do slow it down, you can see that Lane is down. It’s a big play, because without this reversal, the game would have been tied with a successful PAT.

You can follow Mike Pereira on Twitter <a href=“https://twitter.com/#!/MikePereira”>right here</a>.

Tagged: Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Arizona, Arizona State, Florida, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State, Utah, Jordan Kovacs, Austin Tate, Michael Gilliard, Tyler Wilson, Dan Persa, Michael Egnew, Ty Zimmerman, Brad Wing, Tyler Bray, Tyler Sulka, Marlin Lane

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