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Monday, January 30, 2006

Upon Further Review: Remember the Alamo

In the wake of questionable officiating during last month's Alamo Bowl between Michigan and Nebraska, the Sun Belt Conference reviewed the game and admitted its refs probably made four incorrect calls. Coincidentally, all of those calls went against Michigan. They were:

* A first-quarter run by Nebraska's Cory Ross that should have been ruled a fumble.
* A second-quarter Michigan pass that was ruled incomplete but should have been called pass interference.
* A fourth-quarter punt to Michigan's Steve Breaston, who was interfered with, but there was no call.
* On Michigan's fourth-and-8, fourth-quarter pass to Mario Manningham, where replays showed interference but none was called. That play occurred with 2:39 left.

Oddly enough, the Sun Belt review deemed the lateral-filled last play of the game, probably the most scrutinized, as being called correctly.

To read the full report, check out the release here on the official Sun Belt Conference website.


BaggyPantsDevil said...

Obviously, they were waiting for the sizable Michigan fanbase to calm down--and perhaps move on to rooting for the Pistons or something--before making this announcement.

I'm still a little confused about some of the NCAA rules. On three punts Steve Breason was tackle pretty much as he caught the ball. They all looked the same to be, but only one was flagged. I think the rule states that interference is hitting the punt returner prior or simultaneous to touching the ball. This seems to be very difficult to discern with the naked eye at regular speed.

The other source of confusion for me is the 'is it a pass/is it a fumble' question. This has gone against Chad Henne more than once last year. He's starting to throw, gets hit, and then drills the ball into the ground five or so yards in front of him. To me it looks like a really crappy pass due to being hit while throwing the ball, but it always seems to be ruled a fumbled. Now, if the ball went a different direction than the one he intended to throw it, sure, that is a fumble.

My head hurts now, I need to look at more cheerleaders.

Anonymous said...

I hope you'll be able to read this, it's my first post here.

I try not to get too bent-out-of-shape about this stuff, and I've been silent about the Alamo officiating, but this report is quite a piece of BS.

First, the #1 problem here - as I understand it - is that the Sun Belt didn't use instant replay this year. I might be wrong, but I seem to remember this was the big complaint of the ESPN crew.

They were right. A bowl game is NOT the place to be learning how to use the system - and many of the problems came because the officials didn't know what they were doing.

This "report" doesn't address that issue at all. In fact, it provides evidence that, even after this "review", they STILL don't know how to use it.

Exhibit 1: "Replay guidelines do not allow the Replay Crew to review a fumble play once the runner has been ruled down by the officials on the field. Since the runner was ruled down, there can be no “over-turn.” Actions by the Replay Official were correct."


The ENTIRE POINT of the replay system is to determine whether the ball was fumbled before the runner was down or after the runner was down.

This report is a self-serving waste of time.

CapBuck said...

Sorry anon, this isn't a flaw in the Sun Belt officials mis-understanding of the replay system. If the system is the same used in the Big Ten, there are some odd rules surrounding whether a 'downed runner' called on the field can be overturned to a fumble.

As I understand it, if a runner is WHISTLED down, then the play is over and cannot be overturned. If a possible fumble happens and the officials do not 'whistle' the end of a play or if they simply call it a fumble, then it can be reviewed.

The point of the replay system is that it tells officials to make their call on the field, and promises to only overturn those calls with can be clearly proven as wrong calls. This whole fumble/down runner thing is one of my biggest beefs with the way the NCAA is doing replay, b/c it actually encourages the refs to call every possible fumble an actual fumble and sort it out in the replay. This action is encouraged b/c at least the officiating crew can get to the right call, whereas in the case of the Alamo Bowl, the play was whistled dead and therefore no review was allowed.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if I have this right....

If the officials see a fumble, the replay can be used to either confirm the fumble or to overturn the ruling by concluding the runner was down.

But if the officials DON'T see a fumble, but the replay clearly shows the ball was out, the replay official cannot stop the game to review it?

If this is true - and I have no reason at all to doubt your word - this is terribly, terribly wrong.

Anonymous said...

After further review....

I should probably ask what you mean by "whistled" down.

If you mean he was whistled down because his forward progress was stopped, and the officials blew the whistle to stop play - then I understand and agree with the ruling, because the replay official can't possibly hear the whistle on the replay to determine whether the ball was out before the whistle was blown.

But if you mean whistled down after the runners knee touches the ground, then I still don't understand what the H they're thinking.

CapBuck said...

I think you're getting at the logic behind the rule, even though its taken too far in the rule.

Again, I'm not a trusty source on this b/c I'm just spewing 'what I think I know.'

I think the rationale behind the rule has to do with hearing the whistle on the replay tape, which, as you point out, is basically impossible to determine accuratley.

Thus, if a suspicious fumble is blown dead, then the booth cannot overturn b/c the booth can't tell when the play is dead.

However, if the play is declared a fumble, then the booth can review based purely on whether the runner was down by contact.

The problem is the rationale gets carried too far. Example: a player is hit, spins, falls forward 3 yards all while the ball comes out, ball is obvously fumbled between contact with defender and contact with the groud...but official blows whistle and does not call fumble. Since the official whistled the play dead, it can't be reviewed. I think this is how the rule works (and I think this is how the rule screwed UM in the Alamo Bowl).

Dang it, now I'm curious. Time for some google action.

surrounded in columbus said...

you are not alone in being baffled/confused by this. while supposedly you can't over rule whether the play is over, the "whistled down" or (as the say in the NFL) "down by contact" rules aren't air tight.

for example, Henne's "fumble" on the goal line against ND was picked up by a Domer who started to run the other way. the play was whistled dead by the refs, who announced to 110,000 people that there was no fumble because the player had been whistled down.

before the next snap, they stop play, review it and come back & announce that it was a fumble as Henne had dropped the ball before his knee was down AND the whistle blew. just how they could tell the whistle had blown from replay? i don't know either, but they turned the ball over to ND. "down by contact" is not ironclad, so there's no way to say they couldn't have overturned the fumble, if they had decided they wanted to do so.

point is that the refs can correct mistakes when they want, and often make them themselves (i assume everyone has seen or heard of the int/fumble ruling in the colts/steelers playoff game- even the pros blow it). the limits on the scope of reivew on paper aren't clear cut in implementation.

and before a couple dozen Domers chime in here (like the Neb fans did on BPD's post that dared to mention '97), i'm not suggesting that this play/call cost us the game, only that the refs blew it. in fact, if it was a fumble, they cost ND another TD as the defensive play had nothing but turf between him and the goal line.

CapBuck said...

"But if you mean whistled down after the runners knee touches the ground, then I still don't understand what the H they're thinking."

I think the point is...How could the replay official tell whether the whistle was blown before/after the knee is on the ground in the video?