Mitchell: When poor officiating decides games

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Oct 14, 2012


I am always judicious when isolating officiating mistakes, but Saturday’s Cardinal/Irish game will stand out in history not for the greatness of those athletes that competed, nor their accomplishments on the field of play, but rather for the officiating debacle that decided its outcome.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Saturday in South Bend was exactly the kind of football SEC fans live for: two salty defenses lining up opposite run-first offenses with question marks under center. Toss in some inclement weather, and as far as smash-mouth, “old man” football goes, it didn’t disappoint.

Both teams slugged it out, taking the best haymakers the other could throw. But as the game neared its end, and even though the Irish were leading in almost every statistical category (including turnovers), it appeared that the visiting Stanford Cardinal had the upper hand and would sneak out of South Bend the victors.

Then came two of the worst calls of the 2012 season.

I try not to single out officiating – officials are human and thus prone to mistakes like us all, instant replay corrects many of these errors, and even those that slip through typically balance out over the course of a game. We also rarely have “Walk Off” bad calls to end a game.

However, what I witnessed during Notre Dame’s final drive and the subsequent overtime cheapened both the game and the sport.

First, the personal foul call on the tackle that knocked Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson out of the game was at best an emotional mistake, but it was a mistake nonetheless – and it pushed the Irish into field goal range. If college football is going to continue its love affair with hurry up offenses, quarterbacks that run need to be viewed exactly as that – runners. Not quarterbacks. You would NEVER have seen that call made on that hit against a running back, which is what Golson was on that play. Coming at the time/place that it did, that poor call materially impacted the game’s outcome.

But that was at least a judgment call, albeit poor judgment. The no-call on Stanford’s fourth down touchdown run in overtime was simply egregious. Reply clearly showed that Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor was neither down nor had been stopped, and the ball clearly touched and even crossed the plane of the goal line. Yet both the officials on the field AND those in the replay booth missed that obvious call, which gave the game to Notre Dame.

There was no evidence offered that a whistle had blown the play dead – and even that would have been the wrong call as Taylor’s forward progress was nowhere near over and neither had he been tackled to the ground.

Nor does it matter that Stanford had four tries inside the Domers four yard line and struggled. That’s the red herring of red herrings. If you cross the goal line, you cross the goal line; it doesn’t matter if it happens easily on the first down or by second effort on the fourth.

Again, I am always judicious when isolating officiating mistakes and only do so with deep consideration. These professionals love the sport of college football, do their best, will always make mistakes, and I could certainly not do a better job.

However, especially given the advantage of instant reply, Saturday’s Cardinal/Irish game – in South Bend – will stand out in history not for the greatness of those athletes that competed, nor their accomplishments on the field of play, but rather for the officiating debacle that decided its outcome.


Follow me @russmitchellcfb



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