Big Ten must deal with officials’ bad call

Published 1:14 am Monday, November 9, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Another week, it looks like another officiating blunder in college football.

Now it’s the Big Ten’s turn to deal with the fallout of what some argue was a blown game-changing call, this one on Nebraska’s winning touchdown against Michigan State on Saturday night. The 39-38 loss all but ended the Spartans’ hopes of making the College Football Playoff.

Last week the Atlantic Coast Conference suspended officials for several mistakes they made in ruling on the eight-lateral play that resulted in Miami’s winning touchdown against Duke. The ACC said the touchdown shouldn’t have counted, but it did not overturn the result.

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The spotlight is on Big Ten supervisor of officials Bill Carollo to see if he makes a statement on the devastating call to the Spartans or if there will be disciplinary action against the crew that worked the game in Lincoln. The Big Ten did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Sunday.

Michigan State was trying to hold off a late charge by Nebraska when the Cornhuskers’ Brandon Reilly stepped out of bounds at about the 7-yard line and came back in to catch the 30-yard pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. with 17 seconds left.

After huddling, officials ruled Reilly was forced out of bounds by cornerback Jermaine Edmondson — allowing Reilly to remain an eligible receiver. Though there was slight contact between the two, television replays did not support that Reilly was pushed or forced out.

Referee John O’Neill announced the play would be reviewed. But the only thing replay official Tom Kissinger could review under the rules in this circumstance was whether Reilly stepped out of bounds or if there was contact. The answer to both is yes.

Whether Edmondson, who was running in front of Reilly, actually forced the receiver out of bounds by contact was a judgment call to be left to the on-field officials.

Fox Sports officiating guru Mike Pereira didn’t agree with the call.

“I did not think that the defender forced the receiver out of bounds,” Pereira tweeted. “There was some contact but not enough.”

Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo said Sunday that the call should start a discussion about adding more reviewable kinds of plays, albeit “cautiously.”

Reilly’s touchdown came at the end of a 91-yard play drive that lasted 38 seconds. Michigan State could have all but ended the game if cornerback Arjen Colquhoun had been able to hold on to an interception in the end zone the play before Reilly’s touchdown.

“For Nebraska to march down the field they did as quickly as they did, I think Michigan State’s staff would admit maybe they put the game in the hands of officials,” DiNardo said.

Spartans coach Mark Dantonio sidestepped a question on the call.

“Everybody saw the replay,” he said. Later in his postgame news conference, Dantonio added, “You have to credit the people we played against, and I didn’t think the officiating lost us the game.”

Nebraska coach Mike Riley said the ruling surprised him.

“Well, we really thought initially it was going to be ruled out of bounds, so we were getting ready for another play from about the 30-yard line,” he said. “We were actually surprised when they signaled touchdown. I think they were actually reviewing whether or not he caught the ball inbounds but that didn’t even appear to be close, so that was how it kind of came down.”

In another Big Ten game last month, Carollo acknowledged a breakdown of officiating mechanics in regard to down and distance during Nebraska’s game at Illinois. The mess-up cost the Illini a down, but the play had no effect on the outcome. Illinois won 14-13.

Carollo didn’t announce disciplinary action in that case but said “errors of this nature have a significant impact on game assignments, bowl assignments and overall year end status.”

In the Big 12, supervisor of officials Walt Anderson had to answer questions about the crew that worked Oklahoma State’s 30-27 win over Texas in September. Some 16 penalties were called on Texas, one of them being a questionable defensive holding call.


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