Pereira’s Week 3 calls: Odd punt play that confuses even rules experts

Talk about confusing. You’re going to need a tour guide for this one, folks. 

Unfortunately, we don’t have one so you’ll have to settle for me. This bus ride is going to be a doozy, so you better fasten your seat belts. 

There was a play in the West Virginia-Maryland game that may be one of the most confusing plays we’re likely to see all season — and we’re only in Week 3.

Here was the situation: West Virginia had the ball, fourth-and-18 at the WVU 29-yard line with 1:33 left in the second quarter. West Virginia led 28-13.  

WVU’s Nick O’Toole punted the ball 37 yards to the Maryland 34-yard line. Maryland’s William Likely signals for a fair catch, but before the ball gets to him, West Virginia’s Al-Rasheed Benton runs into Maryland’s Milan Barry-Pollack, who runs into Likely. The ball hits Benton before Maryland’s Alvin Hill picks it up and runs it into the end zone, and the officials ruled it a touchdown. But Benton was called for kick-catch interference. The officials then nullified the touchdown and the ball was placed on the Maryland 49-yard line. 

First of all, there is a difference of rules between the NFL and the NCAA and I wish that wasn’t the case because it makes it so hard for fans to understand … and I’m a fan. So it’s hard for me to even understand. 

But once you have made a fair catch signal in college, the ball is dead as soon as the receiving team gets possession of the ball, regardless of whether it touches a kicking team member before the recovery. That’s not the same in the NFL. 

In the NFL, if a fair catch is signaled and the ball is touched by the kicking team, the receiving team can recover and advance the ball.

Was Barry-Pollack blocked into Likely? I actually did think this was interference because, by the college rule, you can’t be within one yard of the receiver in between his shoulders. 

So Benton was close enough on this play for me to agree with the call. Still with me? 

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So I get the call, but the ball was recovered five yards in advance of where the interference occurred. But interference is a spot foul, which means you have to go back to the spot of the interference and enforce that 15 yards from there, which puts you 10 yards from where the ball was recovered. 

We have concluded the tour. So you think you know the rules? You think you’re able to hop on the field and enforce the rules?

I doubt it. That’s how complicated rules can be. 

A POOR USE OF INSTANT REPLAY

Sorry, but I’m enlisting my friend Webster’s help on this one because ever since I started at FOX more than four years ago, it’s been one of my biggest pet peeves in discussing replay. 

indisputable

[in-di-spyoo-tuh-bul]

Not disputable or deniable; uncontestableIndisputable evidence

And I’m sure after Georgia Southern coach Willie Fritz looks at the replay of a play that took place late in the fourth quarter Saturday, he’s going to wish Mr. Webster had been the replay official in Atlanta after watching his team fall 42-38 to Georgia Tech.

Here was the situation: Georgia Southern had the ball, first-and-10 at the Georgia Tech 24-yard line with 4:19 left in the game. The Eagles also had the lead 38-35 and were driving for more. 

Georgia Southern quarterback Favian Upshaw attempted a forward pitch to running back Matt Breida, but it was touched by Georgia Tech’s Jamal Golden and was ruled an incomplete pass on the field. 

After a review, the call was reversed to a backwards pass and a clear recovery by Georgia Tech’s KeShun Freeman at the Georgia Tech 28-yard line. The Yellow Jackets then went on an 11-play, 72-yard drive and scored the game-winning touchdown with 20 seconds left. 

Let me recite from the NCAA rule book on instant replay.

Rule 12, Section 1, Article 1: Instant replay is a process whereby video review is used to confirm, reverse or let stand certain on-field decisions (Rule 12-3) made by game officials. 

And for good measure, look at Article 2. 

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 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 to stand. 

That’s not the case here. The rule says in order for a pass to be forward, the ball has to be touched beyond where the ball is released. Parallel is backwards. But was this parallel? The ball looked to me to be released prior to the 27 and then touched at the 27.

So on this play, was there video evidence that convinces you, me or the replay official beyond all doubt that the initial ruling on the field was incorrect?

I say no. 

It’s one of those clearly you let stand, because it looks like it might be forward, it looks like it might be parallel, but there is no way you can prove that it’s either one of those.

So what’s the result of this? It’s dramatic.

It was a loss for Georgia Southern. The outcome could have clearly been different if they stayed with the call that was made on the field. 

It’s always been my basic problem with the replay system. It never bothers me if a replay official doesn’t overturn a call because he doesn’t feel like he’s got enough video evidence. 

But it really bothers me when a call is overturned when there’s not enough video evidence. This is not a good use of replay and something college football needs to stay away from in making these kind of decisions. 

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