Alabama had reason to be mad about this missed Iron Bowl call

The rules are the rules and then, there are fools, albeit, passionate ones. 

Take a game with national championship implications, put it on in prime time, mix in two bitter rivals in Alabama and Auburn, and then for good measure throw in a controversial play. 

All that added up to Alabama fans getting upset. And after I gave my opinion on Twitter, it riled up the Auburn side. 

The Iron Bowl turned into the Iron Bawl. Let me explain. 

Here was the situation: Auburn had the ball, third-and-2 at its own 44-yard line with 4:44 left to go in the third quarter. The Tigers led 33-27. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall threw a pass that was intended for Quan Bray, who was being defended by Bradley Sylve. Both Bray and Sylve went airborne to make a play on the ball and both had their hands on it up in the air. When they landed, the ruling on the field was a complete pass to Bray and not an interception. 

Upon further review — by me (and no, I didn’t go under any hood) —  I saw Sylve’s left foot hit the ground before Bray’s did.

What does that have to do with anything, you ask? You’ve come to the right place, folks. 

Let’s look at the NCAA Rule Book, Part 2, under "interpretations” for the answer. Under the Completed Pass, Article 6, rule 7-3-6, section 2: Two opposing players receive a legal forward pass while both are off the ground, and one payer returns to the ground inbounds before the other.  Ruling: No simultaneous catch. The legal forward pass is completed or intercepted by the player who first returned to the ground.


Like I said, there are rules and then there are play situations to support those rules. 

This was a very difficult call to make on the field, because it was really tight and I think with simultaneous control of a ball in the air, you always think about the ball being awarded to the offense. 

However, this rule interpretation is very specific on this play. It says when players are up in the air, like Bray and Sylve were, it’s the player who comes down with it first in bounds, who should be awarded the ball. And in this case, Sylve’s left foot hit first in bounds.

It’s very clear in replay that the ball was intercepted by Sylve and should have been awarded to Alabama. But Auburn got the ball on a 35-yard pass completion and then went on to score a field goal on the possession to give the Tigers a 36-27 lead. 

It was a very unusual play — but one I think was ruled incorrectly in replay. 

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter. Final score: Alabama 55, Auburn 44.

But that play certainly livened things up for a while.