You hear the “further review” phrase every weekend during the football season. And now I’m calling it on myself — or rather, my review of a play that I talked about on the air during the Wisconsin-Oregon State game on FX Saturday.
Here was the situation: Wisconsin was about to kick off after having just scored a touchdown to cut Oregon State’s lead to 10-7 with 1:31 left in the fourth quarter. Wisconsin kicker Kyle French attempted an onside kick and also recovered the ball. After a booth review, the call was reversed and the ball was awarded to Oregon State. The officials said French touched the ball after going only nine yards, rather than the required 10 yards.
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I went on FX with game announcers Craig Bolerjack and Joel Klatt and said I thought they’d overturn the call on the field. But after watching the replay several times afterward, I’m calling an audible. The more replays I saw while I was on the air, I started to hedge. I went back to it after the broadcast and actually noticed something I hadn’t seen in the first few replays.
One thing is clear. The kicked ball was going forward the entire time and when it reached the 45-yard line, it suddenly went backward. After looking at it several times, it appears that Oregon State receiver Tyrequek Zimmerman may have touched the ball first. Watching again, I could see his fingers going backward before French recovered the ball at the 44.
The other thing I want to emphasize is this: Indisputable visual evidence. I talk about it all it time and how that is what’s required to overturn a call on the field. After watching the replays, I really don’t think there was indisputable evidence to overturn the call made on the field. From every angle available, there is a short period of time where the ball disappears.
Oregon State ran out the clock to upset the 13th-ranked Badgers, 10-7. But Wisconsin deserved to keep the ball and get a chance to attempt to tie . . . or win it.
I normally take a look at several other game-altering plays during the course of the day, but I want to focus on three others that all deal with the same issue: player safety.
The first two are heartbreaking. The first one took place in the Tulane vs. Tulsa game and the other in the Arkansas vs. Louisiana-Monroe game.
Here was the situation in the Tulsa-Tulane game:
Tulsa led 35-3 and had the ball, fourth-and-1 at the Tulane 33-yard line with two seconds left in the first half. Golden Hurricane quarterback Cody Green completed a 16-yard pass to Willie Carter, who was tackled by Tulane’s Julius Warmsley and Devon Walker. Walker and Warmsley had a helmet-to-helmet collision on the tackle, with Walker getting seriously injured. It was reported that while emergency personnel was administering to Walker on the field, he stopped breathing and both CPR and a tracheotomy were performed to revive him.
He regained consciousness and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where it was announced later he fractured his spine, had a broken neck and collapsed lung.
“When you break your neck at a high-enough level, you no longer are able to breathe,” Dr. Mark Adickes, FOX Sports’ medical expert told me. “The nerve roots from C3, 4 and 5 control the diaphragm. In addition, the shock could suspend spontaneous respirations.”
Adickes also added: “I slowed the video down frame-by-frame and Walker ducked his head at impact, thus lining up his spine and greatly increasing the risk of a fracture.”
The other play — in the Arkansas upset loss to La.-Monroe — was eerily similar. Another helmet-to-helmet hit took place, and again it was a player running into a teammate. Arkansas cornerback Tevin Mitchel collided with Alonzo Highsmith, who was fortunate to walk away. Mitchel was taken off the field on a cart and stretcher.
If you wonder why all levels of football are trying to take out the helmet-to-helmet hits, you need to look no further than these plays. When you see collisions like these, both for the most part unavoidable, you realize why everyone is trying to make the game safer.
And the last play I want to mention is related indirectly. It was a classic example of “targeting” and it took place in the Wisconsin-Oregon State game.
Wisconsin had the ball, second-and-10 from the Oregon State 35-yard line with 8:27 left in the second quarter, with Oregon State leading 3-0. Wisconsin QB Danny O’Brien’s pass attempt to Jared Abbrederis was incomplete as O’Brien was hit on the play by Oregon State’s Feti Taumoepeau.
No foul was called on the play. But there should have been.
Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 of the NCAA rule book states that “no player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul.”
Well, folks, this wasn’t in question and a foul should have been called. It brings up an interesting point on discipline. In the NFL, discipline is doled out in the form of monetary fines. Obviously, in the NCAA you can’t fine players, but they can be disciplined.
The Pac-12 football operations department will review this play on Monday and will likely take some action against Taumoepeau. The action might consist of a warning letter or if there’s a history of this type of behavior by Taumoepeau, it could result in a suspension. During my short tenure with the Pac-12, I found that General Counsel and Vice President of Business Affairs Woodie Dixon is very diligent in reviewing these types of plays.