I’m all for getting the calls right, but too often plays are reviewed and reversed when, in my opinion, there’s not enough evidence to overturn a call that was made on the field.
Let’s look at a late call during the Ohio State-Michigan game that could have had a direct outcome on the result. It didn’t — but Ohio State never should have been in position to win this game, and it was.
Here’s the situation:
Michigan had the ball, second-and-goal at the Ohio State 5-yard line with 2:41 left in the game and a 37-34 lead.
Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Toussaint carried the ball five yards for a touchdown. But after an officials review, the call was reversed and the ball was placed at the 1-foot line.
Why they even considered overturning this as a touchdown, I’ll never know. There were two definitive replays that the booth had to look at, and in my opinion, one showed that the ball might have been a foot short and the other one looked more like it was a clear touchdown.
This decision seemed to be based on the first angle only. Even that, to me, was not conclusive, because when the video was stopped it was not clear whether the knee was down.
Two penalties and three plays later, Michigan was forced to settle for a field goal and a six-point lead. Ohio State got the ball back with 1:59 to play and a chance to win, but Michigan intercepted a pass with 39 seconds remaining to secure the victory.
All in all, the overturn in replay didn’t affect the outcome, so it won’t be that big of an issue. But it does point to a potential flaw in the way decisions in replay are being rendered.
Let’s take a look at some of the other interesting calls from Saturday’s early games.
THE GAME: Iowa State at Oklahoma
THE SITUATION: Trailing 17-6, Iowa State had the ball, second-and-10 at the Oklahoma 28-yard line with 2:15 left in the second quarter.
THE PLAY: Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett’s pass was intercepted by Travis Lewis at the Oklahoma 35-yard line and returned for a touchdown. But Oklahoma’s Jamarkus McFarland was penalized for a block in the back on Jeff Woody. The ball was returned to the Iowa State 43-yard line. Instead of a touchdown, Oklahoma eventually had to settle for a field goal.
MY TAKE: I don’t think that was a block in the back. The contact by McFarland was on Woody’s left shoulder and really had no effect on the play. The rule states, “a block in the back is contact against an opponent occurring when the force of the initial contact is from behind above the waist.” It goes on to say, “the position of the blocker’s head or feet does not necessarily indicate the point of initial contact.” Also note the rule states the “force” of the block. I really don’t think there was enough force there to be considered a foul.
THE GAME: Ohio State at Michigan
THE SITUATION: Trailing 17-16, Michigan had the ball, third-and-5 from the Ohio State 11-yard line with 3:05 left in the second quarter.
THE PLAY: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson completed a 5-yard pass to Martavious Odoms for a first down. The replay official initiated a review because the ball was at first bobbled by Odoms, then caught and then hit the ground. After review, the play stood as called.
MY TAKE: Odoms regained possession prior to the ball hitting the ground. The fact the ball hit the ground does not make the pass incomplete. It becomes a question of maintaining possession. Odoms’ hands remained on the ball, and though the ball moved a bit, he did not lose possession. In order to reverse this ruling, I think you have to see the ball come out of his hands after it hit the ground. I think it was a good job of the replay official staying with the call.
THE GAME: Georgia at Georgia Tech
THE SITUATION: With the score 0-0, Georgia had the ball, first-and-10 at its 42-yard line with 5:04 left in the first quarter.
THE PLAY: Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray completed a pass to Tavarres King for 28 yards to the Georgia Tech 30. Tech challenged that Tavarres’ knee was down at Tech’s 45, but after an officials review, the call stood.
MY TAKE: I like that the replay official stayed with the call on the field. In my own mind, I think King was down. “Think,” however, does not represent indisputable video evidence. This is one of those plays where you have to stay with what was ruled on the field. You should only overturn a call if there is absolutely no question the right call was made. If this philosophy is adhered to across the country, it’s the best way to ensure consistency. Replay should be to correct the obvious mistakes.
THE GAME: Iowa State at Oklahoma
THE SITUATION: Leading 23-6, Oklahoma had the ball, first-and-10 from its 47-yard line with 13:58 left in the third quarter.
THE PLAY: Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones’ pass attempt to Dejauan Miller was incomplete, but Miller was called for offensive pass interference against Iowa State’s Jeremy Reeves.
MY TAKE: Let’s quote the rule on offensive pass interference: “Offensive pass interference by a team ‘A’ player beyond the neutral zone during a legal forward pass play in which a forward pass crosses the neutral zone, is contact that interferes with a eligible team ‘B’ player.” It would appear to me the contact that occurred on this play was what we call normal hand checking. Neither player did enough to warrant a foul. Interference is the toughest call to make in football. I have always said let’s get the big calls right and leave the ticky-tack ones alone. That’s another way to gain consistency.
THE GAME: Georgia at Georgia Tech
THE SITUATION: Trailing 24-10, Georgia Tech had the ball, first-and-10 from its 8-yard line with 6:38 left in the third quarter.
HE PLAY: Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington’s pass was intercepted by Shawn Williams at the Tech 23. Williams spiked the ball and was called for a personal foul.
MY TAKE: Spiking the ball is unsportsmanlike conduct in the college game, whether it happens in the field of play or in the end zone after a score. The unsportsmanlike conduct makes it a 15-yard penalty. The rules in the NCAA are really tight when it comes to spiking the ball. The NFL has a rule, but it’s much looser. It is not a foul if you spike the ball in the end zone or out of bounds, but if it a forceful spike in the field of play, it is a 5-yard penalty for delay of game. The logic of the NFL rule is that spiking the ball causes the ball to bounce away from the dead ball spot to such a degree that the officials have to get a new ball. It’s not really a sportsmanship issue, it’s the issue of interrupting the flow of the game.