Head official: Notre Dame-Stanford controversial call on final play correct
The national coordinator of NCAA football officials says the decision to uphold the ruling on the field for the last play of the Stanford-Notre Dame game was correct.
Field officials ruled Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor’s progress had been stopped before he reached the ball across the goal line for what would have been a potential tying touchdown on fourth-and-goal in overtime.
Replay officials reviewed the play and the call was confirmed, giving Notre Dame a 20-13 win Saturday.
National coordinator of officials Rogers Redding told the AP in a phone interview Tuesday there was nothing unusual about the way officials on the field or in the replay booth handled the decisive play.
He also says that from the replay he saw, he “would have to let that call stand.”
“Most of the comments I heard were, ‘It looked like to me that’ or ‘It sure looked like this.’ The replay official has to say, ‘There is no doubt in my mind.”’
Redding said a runner’s progress is reviewable only on plays that could produce first downs or touchdowns.
In the case of the last play of Notre Dame’s goal line stand against the Cardinal, Taylor was lying on a pile of defenders and his knees were never down. One of his elbows might have touched the turf before he stuck the ball into the end zone, but there was no clear evidence of that for replay officials to spot.
The main issue up for review was whether Taylor’s progress was stopped, Redding said.
Replay officials don’t have access to audio and cannot determine whether a whistle has blown the play dead.
Notre Dame players and coach Brian Kelly contended that Taylor’s last reach came after the play was blown dead. A couple of Notre Dame players, including Manti Te’o, could be seen on replays starting to celebrate right before Taylor put the ball across the line.
Redding did say that replay officials can use field officials’ signals as visual evidence of when a play has been stopped. On one replay angle, the side judge could be seen moving toward the pile of players to spot the ball, just as Taylor made his last reach.
“He’s not going to charge in unless he’s sure in his mind that the play is over,” he said. “That’s another indicator that the play is dead.”
Redding explained though that the rules do allow for some play in the seconds after a whistle.
“There’s a provision in the rules that allows for the immediate continuing action, and that makes the play reviewable,” he said.
The best examples of immediate continuing action come on questionable fumbles. If a ball comes loose, but the officials on the field rule the ball carrier was down, a defense can still be awarded a recovery if the players kept playing in the seconds after the whistle.
So if a whistle was blown by officials during the final play between Notre Dame and Stanford on Saturday, it would not rule out a replay review.
Redding said there was nothing about the final sequence in South Bend that set off alarms about the officiating.
From an officiating standpoint,” he said, “it was routine.”