Uptight Refs, Stupid Coaches, and Bowl Season

Well, just as the interminable bowl season is getting into full gear, we actually had some exciting, well-contested games on December 30. But we also had some head-scratchingly puzzling decisions by both officials and coaches that ought to give the college football fan discussion fodder for weeks to come! Or until the BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME brought to you by OMG!!WTF!!ESPN!!!

First point of discussion … Kansas State scores on a touchdown pass with just over a minute to play in the Pinstripe Bowl, cutting Syracuse’s lead to 36-34. A two-point conversion would tie the game. However … the K-State receiver made a quick salute to the crowd once he reached the end zone. Two officials - apparently with sticks lodged firmly up their rectums - tossed penalty flags, calling an unsportsmanlike/celebration penalty for his salute. This forced the Wildcats to try their two-point conversion play from the 18 yard line, instead of the 3, and while it still was almost successful, it seems an overly harsh penalty for a mild action by the receiver.

Look, I’m one of the guys who hates to see players showing up the opposing team and celebrating in obnoxious ways. I’m totally okay with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties being handed out in these cases. But in this specific case … it was really no big deal. The officials claimed the receiver was “calling attention to himself,” which requires a penalty, but come on. Only a few minutes later, in the Music City Bowl, a receiver from Tennessee scored a touchdown, made a jittery little move with his legs, then … saluted. No penalty. The Volunteers quarterback made a variety of choreographed arm and hand motions for each touchdown, “calling attention to himself” - no penalty. Jebus, and both these officiating crews were from the Big Ten. I personally don’t think any of these specific actions should have been penalized, but can’t we have some consistency?

Point number two: In the aforementioned Music City Bowl, North Carolina had a golden chance to tie or take the lead as time was running out. They had the ball inside the kicker’s range, trailing 20-17. Problem is, there were only seconds left and the Tar Heels were out of time outs. Plenty of time, though, to try a couple of passes to the end zone (for a win) before settling for a game-tying kick attempt should the passes fall incomplete. Because incomplete passes stop the clock. Running plays do not.

So the North Carolina coaching staff sends in a running play. The clock runs … the play is over … the clock still runs … 13, 12 seconds left. This is where the stupidity really comes rushing out. It looked to me like head coach Butch Davis, along with the quarterback, were calling for a spike, a quick incomplete pass just to stop the clock. A different coach, however, was TRYING TO GET THE FIELD GOAL UNIT ON THE FIELD. One coach is gesturing to spike, a different coach is gesturing to change the entire lineup on the field. With four seconds on the clock.

What. Are. You. Thinking. It’s bad enough you call a freakin’ running play with only seconds left and no time outs … but you cannot change units and get a kick off in that amount of time, even if everyone is on the same page. You damn well can’t do it when your head coach and quarterback are setting up for an entirely different play. Knuckleheads.

North Carolina ended up (with the help of review) getting one last second on the clock, made the kick to tie the game, and won the thing in overtime. But they really didn’t deserve to with those knucklehead coaches.

Sure was fun to watch, though! I can only hope more officiating fun comes through in the Holiday Bowl, just so I actually watch Bo Pelini’s head literally explode!!

I think the K-State salute penalty irritated me even more after watching the Vols QB make a beheading motion to the UNC sideline. I was yelling at my tv for a flag with each replay of the Vols QB because the salute penalty was just plain nonsense.

Watching back to back games come down to the wire was pretty exciting. UNC didn’t need it to get that close but they are fortunate their QB was aware enough to just spike the ball and take the penalty because I thought he was actually going to wait for the field to clear.

Indeed - just remarkably lame.

And let’s be fair in citing blameworthy performances. North Carolina’s last-minute drive to the tying field goal was helped by a Tenn penalty for a tolerably blatant “leading with the helmet” hit on a receiver. A couple of plays later they were guilty of a truly egregious late hit (which looked to be helmet-to-helmet and fully intentional) that somehow the officials entirely & unaccountably missed.

With the benefit of an on-screen clock display, it was easy to see that the ball was spiked with about a second to go. I wondered why the officials missed this and declared the game over (mercifully overturned on review). What mechanism or procedure do they have for making an accurate close call in a situation like that?

The very late hit at the end of the North Carolina game happened when the defender was blocked into the ball carrier as the play ended. Good no call.

And here’s something that the rocket scientist officials and the announcers missed–in college football, 12 men (or in this case, 18 men) on the field is a 15-yard penalty.

They walked it off as only 5 yards. There’s a huge difference between a 39-yard and 49-yard field goal.

But then, I guess it makes up for the late hit that they missed two plays before.

It’s. Only 15 yards if the extra players participate in the play. The 5 yards was correct, although I could see marking off 5 yards for each extra player.

Huh? How do you figure?

Approved Ruling 9-1-5-5 from here:

That’s if the defense has 12 players (the extra player is then considered to be participating in a live play). If the offense snaps the ball with more than 11 men on the field, it’s an immediate dead-ball penalty and the penalty is 5 yards. It’s a substitution infraction.

Are we talking about the same hit? On the play in question there was a semi-late hit that looked to be marginally okay, then a much later hit with the offensive player on the ground that looked like a blatant foul. It was late enough that if the hit was caused by a block, the guy doing the blocking should have been flagged.

(I did some searching, but couldn’t find video.)

You remember it correctly. It was an egregious non-call.

Yeah, the Tennessee player was blocked into the UNC ballcarrier on the ground, but … he landed a little, shall we say, enthusiastically on the guy after the play. I can see letting it go, but it would have been a valid penalty, too.

As for illegal participation/substitution … if you’re trying to get players on/off the field, and they’re just too late to get off, that’s illegal substitution and a 5 yard penalty. UNC had about four or five guys running off the field. However … they also had 12 guys lined up in the formation. I checked it out on the DVR and counted them with my son. There were six players grouped on the line of scrimmage, two receivers split to the left, one on the wing on the right, the quarterback, and then two guys lined up behind the quarterback (who happened to be the holder and kicker, by the way, as part of the field goal unit/spike the damn ball clusterfuck). I think … since they were all lined up in the formation at the snap … that should have entailed illegal participation and a 15-yard penalty. But it’s totally understandable the officials missed that. It was chaos out there.

They might not have missed it at all. Illegal substitution is a dead-ball infraction (like a false start or illegal motion), so, technically, the play never goes live and thus there can’t also be illegal participation.

Well, except you can’t determine if there are more than 11 players on the field for the play unless the ball is snapped. If players are running off the field, and they get off before the snap, there’s no penalty (except for the 12 men in the huddle thing, which didn’t apply here). I’m not an expert - I know just enough about the rules to be dangerously wrong - but I don’t see in this instance how it could be a dead-ball, prior to the snap foul.

Here’s a quote from my high school rule book. Again, high school, not NCAA rules, but just for edification: “If there are more than 11 players in the formation at the snap, either offensively or defensively, the foul is considered as having occurred simultaneously with the snap and is illegal participation. The 15-yard penalty is enforced from the previous spot.”

In this instance, the officials on the field during the play considered the clock to have run out before the snap, which means no penalty at all (since the play never started). After review, when the replay official determined there was still one second left when UNC spiked the ball, they knew they had to penalize them for something, so they chose the five-yard penalty for too many men on the field (running off). If they had counted the 12 guys lined up in the offensive formation, it should have been a 15 yarder, and the tying field goal would have been considerably more problematic.

I think.

(Interestingly, Tennessee now has lost two games this season after the clock appeared to have run out … remember the LSU game in October, when the Tigers got another chance to score at the end because Tennessee had too many players on the field? Talk about your oddities …)

Okay, I looked through the rules again and you’re right that it’s a live-ball penalty, but the rule that applies is Rule 3, Section 5, Article 2:

Texas Tech got a 15-yard penalty for a similar salute against Oklahoma back in November (playing in Norman, go figure). It was BS then, it’s BS now.

The rule against the salute is a stupid rule.

But it is a rule. You can’t break it an expect not to be penalized.

And until they end the rule, anyone who celebrates when his team is behind is an idiot.

There isn’t a “rule against saluting”, there’s a rule against “acts by which a player attempts to focus attention on himself”, which is ridiculously vague and clearly not being enforced equally. Banning choreographed celebrations I can certainly understand, but a non-prolonged saluting of the crowd?

Since we’re ragging on college football refs, what do we think about the safety against Ohio State last night?
Ohio State ball on their own 3 yard line or so. Runner is hit by defender just behind the line of scrimmage and driven back three yards into the end zone. At this point the defender slips and falls letting go of the runner and no whistle has yet blown. Runner straightens up takes half a step and is immediately taken down by three more arriving defenders.
Referees award a safety against Ohio State, either stricken with amnesia about the concept of ‘stopped forward progress’ or out of a gesture of solidarity with the Kansas State referees. I’m hoping for the latter, and that we’ll see bizarre calls leading to two point swings in every remaining bowl game this year!

The half step is what did him in. If you “continue to run” after being driven back, you lose the benefit of your previous forward progress. It was a very borderline call, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it go the other way, but it wasn’t really wrong.

I’ve never seen a safety get called when a player has had his forward progress stopped outside the endzone. Never. The fact that the initial tackler got shaken off shouldn’t even matter because the ball carrier was never able to recover and begin moving forward; at most, he was moving sideways.

They also could have called Arkansas for holding Heyward on most plays. He had to start flailing his arms out just to get the ref’s attention.