Bad officiating is as much a part of life as hangovers and Nora Ephron movies. You hate to have to suffer through them but, ultimately, as a prelude to maybe getting laid, they seem inevitable (the drinking and the chick flicks that is, not the umpiring).
But did anyone else watch the 4th quarter of the Boston College v. Florida State game on Saturday—what, so I had a hard time getting my ass off the couch to make it out that night—and think it wasn’t just bad, but curiously bad? And by ‘curiously’ I mean: ‘Dude, if you bet the money line, try to be a little more subtle.’
Specifically there were two spots, both made by the same line judge, both nowhere close to accurate, and both in favor of Boston College.
With about 7 minutes and change left in the game and trailing 20-10, BC was facing a 3rd and 4 at its own 48. Eagles QB Matt Ryan hit Jon Loyte for maybe about 3 yards. From the live shot and from the replay, there was no part of Loyte’s body or the ball that was within a yard of the first down line (made easily visible by the yellow line on the broadcast).
The line judge came up from about 5 or 6 yards behind the play and spotted the ball a good full yard beyond Loyte’s farthest progress down field. It wasn’t close. Kirk Herbstreit even commented on the ABC broadcast that the spot was generous to say the least, also noting that Hoyte didn’t appear to be within about a yard of the first down line to make.
But the spot was enough to give BC the first down.
Why did it matter?
BC should have been facing a 4th and 1. With about 7:30 on the clock and trailing by 10 the Eagles are looking at a tough decision on whether to punt or go for it.
Instead of maybe giving the ball back on downs or by punt, on the subsequent first down play Ryan hit Rich Gunnell for 42 yards to the FSU 6. And three plays later the Eagles punched it in. 20-17 with about 6:45 of clock.
At the very least it’s a huge failure of the FSU coaches. You’ve got one challenge, right? Use it. It didn’t look like the Noles were even aware. Although the Noles are so poorly coached it wouldn’t be surprising if they don’t even have a mechanism for alerting Old Man Bowden to throw the damn flag (maybe tell him it will get those darned kids off his lawn).
And isn’t every play reviewed in the booth in college football? Is the spot of the ball not reviewable upstairs? No, really. Is it? There are so many cockamamie exceptions to what’s reviewable and what isn’t. Half of them don’t even make sense.
Anyway, after the ensuing kick, FSU ran about 5 or 6 plays before being forced to punt, so with 3:30 left and trailing by only 3, BC started with the ball on its own 9. After an incomplete pass on first down, Ryan hit Kevin Challenger for about 8 yards.
But the same line judge, again coming from about 5 yards behind the play, and again benefitting BC gave Challenger about an extra yard on the spot.
This actually was advantageous to BC two ways. First, the additional yards made it close enough to measure. So the clock stopped. Time wasn’t yet critical, but it still stopped the clock when BC had lots of field to cover and dwindling time to do it in. Second, it made the third down a gimme. Ryan sneaked the ball over the left side of the line and got a first down relatively easily.
This all became irrelevant when Ryan threw a pick-6 to Geno Hayes of FSU five plays later.
Still… two favorable spots. Both for about an extra yard. Both from the same line judge. Both when he was about 5 or 6 yards behind the play. Both helping to sustain drives when BC really couldn’t afford to relinquish possession. One gave the Eagles a first down, the other gave them a very sneakable down and distance.
Again, I’ll stick with the word “curious.” And again, I couldn’t find the names of the officiating crew in any of the game summaries, so I can’t even single the line judge out by name. I’d like to because both spots were bad enough that I thought, “Either this guy’s kid is a freshman at BC or he’s got Jimmy Two Times and Fat Tony on his cellphone speed dial.”
Just to be clear, it probably wasn’t anything more than bad officiating that coincidentally favored the same team in the same manner. Really, there are probably 5 to 10 plays in any given game where the refs are just fucking guessing where to spot the ball. But these were both egregious and had BC come back to win the game would have been a huge factor, particularly the first of the bad spots (the second less so, it’s still 3rd and short—maybe a long one yard—although the extra seconds could have proven valuable). And when you are second ranked in the BCS standings a possible national championship hinges on every game. Bummer had one been so influenced by incompetence.
Instead BC was more undone by bad quarterbacking than they were aided by bad officiating and all of this falls down the memory hole along with the Eagles’ BCS title hopes and Matt Ryan’s acceptance speech at the Downtown Athletic Club*.
If nothing else, could someone with better sluething skills on the Interwebs find this clown’s name? I’d like to watch him in the future to see if he is consistently that incompetent, and if I can figure out who he is consistently incompetent in favor of, I can retire in two years.
(*Yes, I’m aware that the Heisman is no longer given out at the DAC)