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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Killer Bad Calls

They usually have a title: The Desmond Trip, Clockgate or Fifth Down and leave a taste in your mouth akin to warm beer from a day-old tailgate party. We're talking about games that were clearly decided by a referee's call (or non-call) that (usually) go against "your" team. Calls and games that stick with college football fans long after the 4th quarter, and even the season, have ended. Like the ugly grenade who won't leave her hot friend's side at the bar so you can make your move, these games never leave your consciousness.

Last week we posted about a Miami fan's contention that Tosu's national championship in 2002 should be nullified since they benefited from a pass interference call that he felt should never have been. Whether the call should have been made is debatable. But it does fit the category - a questionable call by a referee on the last, or nearly last play of the game, that undoubtedly decides the result of the game.

The first two bad call games mentioned above involved Michigan. Sadly, those are much too easy for us to remember here at the M Zone. And though many Michigan fans might not believe this, the Wolverines aren't the only team to lose a game because of a bad referee call. So let's hear from fans of every school: What was the worst ref call that cost your team a game?

Let's try to keep this to one distinct call, not a pattern of bad officiating throughout a game (e.g., 2005 Alamo Bowl where it hurt both teams, or the Michigan-Iowa game last year where the Wolverines got some early benefits). The call has to have come late in the game, perhaps on the last play. And without this call, the result most likely would have been reversed. Rebuttals to any of the complaints are welcome as well.

So, which games and calls still haunt you, oh, M Zone reader and lover of all things college football?


Sean said...

I'd definitely have to say the 2001 MSU game when the clock went 4...3...2...1...1...1, Spartanbob got to us.

I was at the game and I was only 11 years old, and on top of us getting screwed on the call, on the way back to my car some MSU fan that was a women basically rubbbed the loss right in my face. And the fact that with that win we would've had a Rose Bowl trip coming up later that year.

Anonymous said...

Although this wasn't "my" team, the Florida-Vanderbilt game this year was terrible. The Vanderbilt WR score a touchdown with about thirty seconds left to bring them within one, and then shook his shoulders a bit. He didn't do some elaborate dance or taunt the crowd or anything. And the ref throws an excessive celebration flag.

Keep in mind, there was thirty seconds left...

Anyway, Vandy did actually make the long extra point to send the game into ot, but Vandy coach after the game said he would've gone for two if not for hte penalty.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to say the Notre Dame/USC game from this past year. As much as I hate both teams, Notre Dame got screwed late in that game. With the forward fumble, Bush pushing Leinart into the endzone.

Todd said...

I was at The Desmond Trip game and it was surreal. Michigan was ranked #1 in the country at the time and we had corner of the end zone seats (season tickets) about six rows up on the same side of the stadium as the student section, but opposite end.

From where we were we couldn't see anything but a pass go up into the air. We couldn't see if it had been caught or not, but the student section erupted in a frenzy so we, along with everyone else in our section were going nuts too because we thought they had completed the pass and won the game.

I remember my dad, stepbrothers and I were dancing in a circle in the aisle and then it got very quiet, very quick and a guy neaer us with a radio headset on told us what happened.

From total euphoria to clinical depression in the space of about 10 seconds. Easily one of the worst football experiences of my life. :)

Anonymous said...

There was an OSU game at Columbus (perhaps 1972?) when Mike Lantry attempted a last-second field goal. It was ruled no good. When you look at the TV view, which was at a goofy angle, you can make a pretty good argument that the field goal was actually good. Since I was 5 at the time, this one doesn't burn me up as much as "clock gate" or "the trip."

But as long as we are talking UM/MSU fiascos, don't forget 1995; in that game MSU was facing 4 and 7 on their last drive. Banks threw an out pattern that was good for 6 and marked for 8.

There are more UM games I could mention, but that's a good start.

masked avenger

Anonymous said...

The South Carolina-Clemson game in 2001 was decided by one of the most atrocious non-calls I've ever seen. South Carolina was up 14-13 with little more than a minute to go. Clemson QB Woody Dantzler heaved a ball downfield for wideout Rod Gardner who clearly, indisputably pushed off, separating himself by a good three yards from DB Andre Goodman. Gardner makes the uncontested 50-yard grab, Clemson kicks a field goal and wins 16-14.

Like the Desmond Trip, there is a photo proving beyond any doubt that the Push Off occurred and cost South Carolina a rare victory over reviled Clemson.

COWolverine said...

Since I'm guessing no Mizzou fans are going to stop by to rag on '97 Nebraska, I might point out that the rules do officially state that a receiver may not intentionally kick a thrown ball up into the air.

Is it likely that call is going to be made in most cases? No, but I'm just sayin...

Kyle King said...

In the interests of fairness, I'll cite two examples of blown calls deciding games, one of which awarded my team a victory it did not earn, the other of which robbed my team of a victory it deserved.

Georgia's win over Alabama in 1965 occurred because of a game-deciding flea flicker. Still pictures and video replays (once of which still plays on the Sanford Stadium matrix board before every home game, much to my chagrin) show clearly that the player who flipped the ball back had his knees on the ground. He was down and the deciding touchdown should not have counted.

Speaking of Georgia players whose knees were down, Jasper Sanks's shins, knees, calves, hips, forearms, and elbows were down before he "fumbled" at the goal line against Georgia Tech in 1999.

What made the blown call even more egregious was the fact that the "fumbled" ball was picked up in the end zone by a Yellow Jacket, a Bulldog had that player in his grasp, and the play was then whistled dead.

Either the ball was dead---in which case the 'Dawgs have possession at the goal line---or the ball was live, in which case Georgia gets credit for a safety and Georgia Tech has to kick to a Red and Black squad the Ramblin' Wreck hadn't stopped all day.

Instead, Georgia Tech got the ball and the win, the latter of which later was vacated (along with the Golden Tornado's 1998 win over the Bulldogs, which also was decided on an erroneous, but less egregious, fumble call) by the N.C.A.A. Serves 'em right.

Wangs said...

COWolverine - excellent point. Another reason that Michigan should've been voted #1 by all of the coaches, assistant ads, and interns that year.

Benny Friedman said...

KK, I have to say, no matter how many more comments we get, yours will be the best. Any post that references an ill-gotten victory from 1965 AND Jasper Sanks is an award winner. Nice job.

Anonymous said...

I also feel terrible about losing a couple of cheap games, but we benefitted HUGE against Illinois in 99 (I think) when Thomas fumbled clearly, but the refs at that time ruled he was down. We needed that to score, and won the game eventually.

later on the refs even admitted that they blew the game, and IU should have won. I felt bad for IU

Anonymous said...

"COWolverine said...
Since I'm guessing no Mizzou fans are going to stop by to rag on '97 Nebraska, I might point out that the rules do officially state that a receiver may not intentionally kick a thrown ball up into the air. "

Actually, that was 1994, so you can add that to the misery of us "whiner" Penn State fans, who would have had a 3rd MNC.

Oh, yeah and there was something about 2 seconds being added to the clock in a game this year where the outcome was decided on the last play of the game. Can't remember who that was against. ;-)

Benny Friedman said...

Anonymous Penn State fan, thanks for your comments.
The kicked ball that COWolverine refers to was definitely 1997. It was the same day that Michigan beat your Nittany Lions. The media dubbed it "Judgment Day." The kick allowed Nebraska to stay alive and share the MNC with the Wolverines.
As for the two seconds, though I can understand your frustration, it was the right call.

Wangs said...

Penn Sylvania State (aka Anon 9:59), the Nebraska kick of the ball by the wide receiver did occur in 1997. It put the game in overtime where Nebraska won. And, for the coaches/assistant ads/interns who were busy doing other things on that College Football Satuday, they just saw the score and gave their vote to Nebraska. If they had watched the game, they would've certainly held that against Nebraska. At least a little bit.

Re: this year's Penn Sylvania State - Michigan game. Adding the two seconds was the right call. Not a ref error.

Anonymous said...

"Actually, that was 1994, so you can add that to the misery of us "whiner" Penn State fans, who would have had a 3rd MNC."

cowolverine was correct you Nittany Dope, it was 1997.

Greg said...

I don't care too much about the time being added to the clock in last year's Penn State-Michigan game, but about three plays before the winning touchdown, a Michigan receiver was CLEARLY out of bounds on a catch. It was a good chunk of yardage, too (I can't remember specifically, because I have tried to blot that game from my memory), and I wonder how it would have changed the game if the refs had gotten the call right. Or looked at the instant replay, which I can't believe they didn't do.

I was at a wedding watching it in a bar, so I could be mistaken about the events. Any Michigan fans want to dispute my memory?

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Anon 9:59

Yep, the Nebraska kick against Missouri was definitely in '97, as others have pointed out. It still wasn't a good day for Penn State since while that was going on the #4 Wolverines were pummeling the #3 Nitany Lions in Happy Valley 34 to 8.

It's interesting how in both '94 and '97 Nebraska was the recipient of some charity in the polls. Penn State was robbed of at least a share of the MNC in '94.

And the 2005 loss to Michigan is largely irrelevant. Whether Penn State was undefeated or had that one loss, they still would have been #3 at the end of the season. Where’s the gratitude for sparing Joe Paterno yet another season that was both undefeated and without a MNC?

Anonymous said...

the Fiasco Bowl where Terry Porter robbed my canes with a horrible Pass Interfernce Call

Anonymous said...

psu-nebraska 1982 psu receiver has one foot out of bounds and makes a "legal" catch

psu-alabama similar play but for a psu td

psu relative being a ref for psu games in the 80's and early 90's.

Anonymous said...

Actually baggypants no one will know for sure where PSU would have ended the season had the referines called the game fairly. There is a very good chance that PSU would have been ranked higher than USC or Texas.

All the referines did was spare the BSCS the aggony of having two undefeated teams at the end of bowl season.

But that is history now... the future reads that the Wolverines will get sent home from HV with a nice loss this October...

Here's to another heartbreaking season for you spoiled Meatchicken fans. :)

Matt said...

I knew it wouldn't take long for somebody to cite SC-ND '05. Too bad the fumble was ruled exactly right and as for Reggie's push... you can have it back when you cut your grass.
However, for an SC-ND fumble that a) decided the game and b) was wrong, how about The Bus in... 91? The year escapes me. The image of the ball rolling through the EZ next to the ref in TD-Jesus pose does not.

Doug said...

I'm with Mayor King -- no single call has driven me into a homicidal rage quite the way the Jasper Sanks "fumble" of 1999 in the Georgia-Georgia Tech game did. The rest of the day after that awful ending was pretty much a hazy delirium, but I specifically remember being restrained by a Georgia Tech campus cop to keep me from running out onto the field and taking a leak on the "GT" logo at midfield while all the Techies were celebrating.

Joe said...

Any amount of phantom calls in USC's favor at home or in the Rose Bowl. Apparently USC has to get to the 2 yard line to score at home.

Also, the questionable clip call on Rocket's punt return against Colorado in the '91 Orange Bowl.

Anonymous said...

There was a Rose Bowl in the 80s with Bo against USC *I think* where there was a horrible holding call (replay showed nothing) on a faked punt. This killed the game for us and was near the end of the game.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious, Domers whining over calls from last year's SC game. The "Bush Push" only starts to balance out all the horsecrap calls domers have enjoyed over the years. Consider last year a start, balancing out "The Spot" in the 89 game. I figure SC's got about 10 more calls to go their way before this balances out.

PS - Buy a lawnmower Charlie.

Dawgnoxious said...

I'm with Mayor King. The Phantom Fumble against Tech is surely a sign of the apocalypse. I'm fully convinced that if I were an 80-year old man in a wheelchair and you told me "Jasper fumbled" I would arise from my chair and punch you in your lying mouth.

Blown calls are part of sports, but the egregarious part is not that it was blown. As Kyle points out, the University of Florida graduate (Al Ford) who made the bad call screwed up his screw up. He blew the blown call!

If it was a fumble, then UGA gets a safety and the win. If not, UGA gets the ball on the 1, a gimme FG, and presumably the win. Under no set of circumstances should UGA get neither possession nor a safety.

This call will make my blood boil until I draw my last breath.

Anonymous said...

i still don't understand why Penn State fans are so upset about Joe Paterno getting 2 seconds put back on the clock in the M-PSU game...

I mean, he did so with about 3 minutes left, because he wanted to make sure the Nittany Lions had enough time to score on Michigan... there was no way he could've known that it would've been the difference in the game.

Would you have been as upset about those 2 seconds if PSU had scored on the last play of the game, instead?

Ken VP said...

How can any Michigan fan ever forget "The Phantom Touchdown" in the 1979(? I think it was '79) Rose Bowl.

Charles White fumbles on the two yard line, the ball is recovered by Michigan, and USC gets a touchdown...

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Anon 11:26

Meatchicken? Are we now seven year olds? Why all the hate?

I don't think anyone in their right mind would consider Penn State's chances of overtaking the two teams that were nember 1 and 2 the entire season as "very good" unless Penn State administered 98-0 beatdowns to the remainder of their opponents.

And a Penn State victory over Michigan might actually be a nice thing. If only for the novelty. What's it been, a decade?

Kirbdaddy said...


After Judgement Day '97, the polls were split with FSU (who beat undefeated UNC w/ Mack Brown) and UM being number one in the polls. The pollsters actually paid attention that weekend. The coaches gave Osborne a retirement present at the end of the season.

Anonymous said...

The phantom holding call was in the 1990 Rose Bowl. Michigan was #2 going into the game. Chris Stapleton faked a punt with the score tied at 10 with about 6 minutes left. Michigan gained 30 yards, but a Pac-10 ref called an imaginary hold - Bobby Abhram on Junior Seau. If I recall correctly, Seau later admitted the call was bogus.

Again, if my memory is correct, Bo was so steamed, he got not one but two unsportsmanlike penalties from the Pac-10 ref.

USC took its good field position and scored the winning touchdown, and #1 Colorado lost its bowl game.

Masked avenger

Anonymous said...

"he did so with about 3 minutes left"

False. Definitely less than one minute. I believe it was reset from 26 seconds to 28 seconds.

Jim said...

Bama fan here, but the worst call I've seen (other than in Bama games...) happened in UF/Tenn game a couple of years ago with a minute left on the clock and then Tenn def back slugs the UF receiver a couple of yards right in front of the ref. The UF player looked at the ref, can't believe it's not called, and hit the Tenn player back. The ref called UF player for personal foul, though his hit was less of a hit, which gave Tenn an incredibly important 15 yards.
This was followed by the ref not starting the clock which would have taken the clock down to 30 seconds or so. The clock didn't start, UF had to punt, Tenn got the ball with a minute left and 15 yards closer, rather than 30 seconds, made one big play, and scored on a field goal I believe.
The worst non-call on a personal foul that I have ever seen, with a terrible result.....

Anonymous said...

No, Anon 3:22. Paterno got 2 seconds put back on at around the 3:00 mark. Carr later got time added back as well, from :22 to :26.

The PSU fans are angry about Carr getting time back, but not Paterno, which is moronic on so many levels we don't have the time nor the space to go into it.

Anonymous said...

Although it didn't impact my Wolverines, I believe that the most egregious officiating error in college football history came during the 1990 Colorado-Missouri game.

Colorado had first and goal with under one minute to play trailing by four. The Buffs ran four plays, failing to get into the endzone. The ball should have then gone back to the Tigers, however the officials had forgotten to change the down marker after one of the plays. Colorado was allowed one more play, and on fifth down, the Buffaloes scored a touchdown as time expired.

VaticanCrusader said...

The 2 seconds added at Paterno's request were legitimate. Those added at the whining of Carr were not. The added time aside, let's not forget two outrageous spots, each giving Micigan a first down on what would otherwise have been 4th downs and the out-of-bounds catch that was called in bounds and not reviewed. All of this happened in the last minute of the game.

NITigan clearly no longer buys basketball championships, but it's also zpretty clear what those MeCheatAgain boosters buy now.

COWolverine said...

"The 2 seconds added at Paterno's request were legitimate. Those added at the whining of Carr were not."

Well there it is ladies and gentlemen, undeniable truthiness. I am sure the rulebook says "Paterno: yes, Carr: no" somewhere. I'm quite sure either coach has the right to point out if too much time ran off the clock. As I recall, a rule had been changed about the sidelines calling for timeouts and that was Carr's point to the officials. Whatever the reason he got the time back, there are two points that get no play with the PSU complaints:

If there were 4 seconds left instead of 6, does Carr avoid running that retarded throw underneath to Breaston and skip straight to the post to Manningham because he knows he is on his last play?

Recollections are correct that UM's extra 2 seconds came with 20-some second left and PSU had done it a few minutes earlier. However, these two instances of 2 seconds being put back on the clock were not anything new. In the home game with Minn just prior to that PSU game, the officials added those exact same slippery 2 seconds back to the clock on 3 other occasions. Before the officials gave Carr his 2 seconds that last time, my friend next to me even joked "please add 2 seconds back to the game clock" because this had become a pretty regular occurence. They didn't suddenly decide to give Carr this ability at some crucial moment.

I still have never been convinced how the rule is interpreted on the Avant heel-toe catch. It was obvious to everyone how he came down on the sideline, and I still haven't seen a rule which clearly states whether it was a catch or not. If that was a bad call, it was about rules interpretation though, and I am curious if there is a final word in the rulebook.

Becky said...

I'm a little bitter at the fact that my boss walked up yesterday as I was typing my tirade about the '97 Husker-Mizzou kicked ball. Since I accidentally closed instead of minimizing, my bid to be the first to bitch about it being perhaps OUR opportunity to build a billboard in Nebraska was cut off at the pass. I hate how work gets in the way of the important stuff.

Michael said...

For my imaginary money, the worst call I can remember going against Michigan was at the end of the 1/1/98 Rose Bowl against Wazzu. UM had WSU backed up on its own ten yard line in the final seconds. Leaf heaves a hail mary pass down the right sideline, where Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson is camped under the ball to end the game. Before the ball arrives, a Wazzu receiver tackles Woodson, clearing a path for a friend to catch the pass. The official (from an SEC crew that had a conflict of interest since Tennessee would get a shot at the national title if Micigan lost) on the spot takes his flag out of his pocket, then keeps it in his had while he's marking the ball at the spot.

Wazzu then completes a hook and ladder pass to the 20 and the game ends in controversy when WSU can't spike the ball in one second. After the "disputed" ending and Nebraska's win over a gimpy Peyton Manning and Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, NU wins the coaches poll by two votes. If the offensive PI is called correctly, then Michigan almost certainly wins both polls.

Putting my Georgia hat on for a moment, I totally agree that the end of the '99 Tech-UGA game was the worst call I've ever seen. Jasper Sanks was lying prone on the ground when the "fumble" occurred. Adding insult to injury, Georgia lost the previous year after getting screwed on a two-point call. In defense of Tech, they got screwed in '97 when Georgia's winning drive was kept alive by a very iffy interference call. It was a contentious few years for the Tech-Georgia rivalry.

Anonymous said...

What was the bowl game this year where one team actually recovered the onside kick and it was ruled not recovered. I think Iowa was in the game.

Kyle King said...

Michael is right that the pass interference call at the end of the 1997 Georgia-Georgia Tech game was iffy.

What it was---as George O'Leary admitted afterwards---was defensive holding.

Coach O'Leary's point was that, although his team clearly deserved a penalty, it didn't deserve as many yards.

The yardage, however, was not what mattered. The Yellow Jackets intercepted a pass because the defensive holding/pass interference occurred. The important fact of the penalty wasn't the fact that Georgia picked up a particular number of yards, it was that the Bulldogs retained possession . . . which even the Ramblin' Wreck's head coach admitted they should have.

For purposes of that game, the pass interference/defensive holding issue is a distinction without a difference. Either way, Georgia retains possession deep in Georgia Tech territory with time on the clock. Unlike the uncalled fumble that was in 1998 and the called fumble that wasn't in 1999, the question of which of two possible penalties to call in 1997 was not clearly an outcome-changing decision.

Besides, subsequent events have rendered that debatable call moot. Had no flag been thrown and the Yellow Jackets won, that game would have been one of the vacated Georgia Tech wins, anyway.

As I admitted in my original comment in this thread, my alma mater has won some games on bad calls (e.g., the 1965 Alabama game), but the 1997 Georgia Tech game was not among them.

Anna said...

The Gardner "pushoff" was a borderline call but not even in the top 1,000 of all time bad calls. Not even close - that kind of shoving happens all the time down the field and doesn't get called.

Anyway, you know a call is bad when an officiating crew gets sanctioned and that is exactly what happened after the "fumble" by Jasper Sanks in 1999. THAT was a bad call. Wow. One of those where the officials right next to the play calls him down and some moron with no view comes running from across the field to call it a fumble b/c he sees a GT player with the ball after the play. That was the beginning of the end for Jim Donnan. FWIW, I think he did the right thing by taking one more dive at the endzone before kicking the winning FG.

shakeyour$maker said...

"Oldest Rivalry in the South"
University of Georgia vs. Auburn University, 1990.

Auburn was in the middle of a below average year...a "Rebuilding Year" if you will.... and had a True Freshman QB by the name of Stan White. UGA was a much better ball team that year, but struggled against the stubborn Tigers. In the final minute of the game, UGA led Auburn by 6 points. Auburn drove to the UGA goal line with about 15 seconds to go in the game. AU Coach Pat Dye called a QB sneak for Stan White....he took the snap and got lost in the pile. Many Auburn students burst into cheers as they thought White had crossed the goal line. No signal was given and Auburn players hurried back to the line to try one last time. Instead, the UGA players laid on the gound...held Stan White down...while Pat Dye screamed furiously at the refs to call a delay of game penalty on the Dawgs. Unfortunatly, the call never was made. The Dawg D continued to lay flat on the ground and the clock ticked to 0. Stan White chased the refs into their locker room. Jordan-Hare Stadium was in a state of shock by the obvious delay of game by the Bulldogs. Then, the UGA chants began..."There aint nothin finer in the land...than a drunk obnoxious Georgia fan!!!" Some UGA lineman proceeded to climb the Auburn cheerleader stand in front of the AU student section, shooting birds to the students and grabbing themselves like Michael Jackson. Lots of Class was shown this day!!!