The use of instant replay in college football is great. Not that the on-field officials don’t normally do a good job, but calls are inevitably missed. In the most obvious cases the wrong is righted through replay. Which makes an officiating crew committing egregious mistakes at the end of a game even more frustrating, as was the case with the end of the Wisconsin, Arizona State game on Saturday.
Wisconsin was trailing 32-30 with 18 seconds remaining, and had the ball. A completed pass brought the ball to the Arizona St. 13-yard-line, where the Badgers attempted a play to move the ball to the center of the field for a potential game-winning field goal.
Normally it would have been a formality, except that Badgers quarterback Joel Stave ran into the back of a lineman’s leg, where his knee may or may not have touched the ground. Then Stave placed the ball down on the turf while standing again, instead of handing the ball to an official.
Chaos and controversy ensued. Two seconds after the play, three Arizona State players pounced on the ball claiming the play was still live, thinking that Stave had fumbled when he put the ball back on the turf. Then Stave distracted the referee while the umpire was trying to pull bodies off the ball.
:07, :06, :05…
Stave and the Badgers then suddenly realized “My God the clock’s running!” and hurried to the line in an attempt to spike the ball and stop the clock, but it was too late.
The game was over and the officials ran out of Sun Devil Stadium in a dead sprint, WWE fashion. And it was off to SportsCenter.
The Badgers deserve some of the blame as they blew the basic fundamentals on the final play. But the reaction by the officiating crew was nothing short of unprofessional and unacceptable. The officials will almost certainly be reprimanded by the Pac-12 this week.
After further review, time should have been put back on the clock based on the following:
ASU claiming possession should had been a red flag for the officiating crew. They should have stopped the clock and made sure the correct call was made, like officials do at any other time in a game.
Had protocol been followed, there would have been time remaining for Wisconsin to kick the game-winning field goal.
Did Stave, in essence, fumble? Did his knee touch the ground when he made contact with the lineman? The play should have been reviewed. Some visual evidence suggests that his knee did, in fact, touch the ground before he placed the ball on the turf.
At best it appears inconclusive, so the play (no fumble) on the field would have stood. But a closer look at it was not shown because, you know: SportsCenter is next!
I will also send criticism towards Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen. As the zebras were running out of Sun Devil Stadium like it was on fire, Andersen needed to channel his inner Jim Harbaugh or Bill Belichick. Throw a good, old-fashioned eight-year old tantrum. Tackle the official if necessary. Have the players block the entrance to the tunnel if they have to. The Badgers sometimes are too classy for their own good.
So I’m also blaming the Badgers and even ESPN. Yes, The Worldwide Leader is now helping to decide games, because SportsCenter had already been waiting to go on the air for an hour with the Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez recap, where one of the judges was apparently as clueless as the Wisconsin-Arizona State officials.
Here are the telling screenshots of the game’s final moments:
Did Stave’s knee hit the ground at this point? From this angle it appears it did:
Stave then “downs” the ball, but is standing:
ASU players pounce on what they believe might be a live ball. Note the actions of the umpire:
Stave starts to argue with referee, oblivious to the clock:
Stave casually strolls back to line of scrimmage:
ASU players surround umpire, who has still not marked ball:
:01 second left:
Ballgame! Meanwhile umpire looks more ready to blitz for the Sun Devils.