Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen called for disciplinary action against the Southeastern Conference replay official who worked the Bulldogs’ 29-19 loss to Florida after a Gators touchdown that might have been a fumble was not overturned.
Mullen said Sunday it’s understandable if a field official makes a mistake because of the speed of the game, but the replay official can take his time and should be held accountable.
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“I don’t even know why we have replay right now in the Southeastern Conference if they’re not going to utilize it,” Mullen said.
“That’s twice now that they’ve blown calls on the replay with our games, resulting in big plays, and I think that’s unexcusable for that official. I hope he’s severely punished if he ever works another SEC game again, because I think it’s completely unacceptable.”
Mullen’s comments come a few days after SEC commissioner Mike Slive suspended an officiating crew for two personal foul penalties in the Arkansas-Florida and LSU-Georgia games that league officials said should not have been called.
It was the first time the league publicly suspended an officiating crew. The group won’t return to duty till Nov. 14 and bowl assignments could be affected.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was reprimanded by the SEC for his comments about those officials after the Razorbacks’ 23-20 loss at Florida. Mullen, who also complained about the consistency of calls made on kickoffs, could to be reprimanded as well.
Messages left with the SEC were not immediately returned Sunday, and it was unclear who handled duties in the replay booth Saturday in Starkville.
The play Mullen disputed happened in the fourth quarter with Florida up 23-13.
Gators linebacker Dustin Doe returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown, but replays showed Brandon McRae might have stripped the ball from the celebrating linebacker short of the goal line. If the call had been overturned, the Bulldogs would have been given the ball at the 20 with 8:25 left in the fourth quarter.
Instead, it was Florida’s second touchdown in 33 seconds and it effectively sealed the win.
Mullen said it was the second time a replay official has cost his team this season. He was referring to a penalty called against Mississippi State in a loss to Houston that looked as if the play would have been overturned had it been reviewed.
The coach and his staff watched film of Saturday’s play after the game, then Mullen later watched the replay “all night” on television.
“There’s no excuse for a guy who has the amount of time to replay the video to make sure they get the call right,” Mullen said. “That’s why we have instant replay and I think it’s embarrassing that they blew that call. I’ve seen still shots of the ball out of his hand. I don’t think that’s acceptable on a guy that has the ability to watch all the different angles.”
Doe’s touchdown was important for Florida because points have been so hard to come by for the Gators. Sure, they jumped back to No. 1 after a one-week hiatus. But that was due more to Alabama’s own struggles than Florida’s success.
The offense that dominated college football in 2008 has bogged down. Florida needed a field goal with 9 seconds left to beat Arkansas last week and entered the fourth quarter with a 16-13 lead over Mississippi State.
The Gators have scored just seven touchdowns in 25 trips inside an opponents 20 during SEC play and they’re clearly becoming frustrated. Tim Tebow turned down postgame interview requests for the first time in his career after having two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
“He’s very frustrated,” Meyer said Sunday during a conference call with reporters. “He’s used to playing at a certain level. A lot of guys are frustrated. We go down there by … 10 points on the road and it’s the same old song and dance as the last couple weeks. And guys want to play better.”
Meyer said team chemistry is great, but called a meeting with players recently to make sure there would be no finger-pointing between units.
“I have seen it in the past,” Meyer said. “I have not seen it on this team yet.”