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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Regarding The Blown Clemson Fumble Call

So while I was off deer hunting this past weekend, mercifully averting my eyes from another State defensive debacle, it looks like the ACC officiating folks were busy getting themselves in a heap of poo.

The crew that worked the State game, led by referee Tom McCreesh, blew a clear fumble at a decisive point in the game. Down 24-14, State's Clem Johnson stripped the ball from C.J. Spiller and recovered it. The officials ruled Spiller was down, however, and Spiller implored his teammates to snap the ball quickly before Tom O'Brien could call timeout to get the play reviewed.

What happened from there could best be described as a giant clusterf**k. O'Brien waited a moment to see if the replay official would buzz down to the crew on the field. When it was clear they were not, and with Clemson hurrying to the line, O'Brien feverishly tried to get a timeout called but to no avail. The Tigers get a play off, but after the play is over, McCreesh says that State in fact DID call timeout. No play.

So State gets to challenge the call after all. McCreesh dons a headset, listens to the replay official on the other end for what seems like an eternity and then returns to the field with the verdict: the play stands as called!

Judge for yourself as to whether the call should've been overturned:

Seems pretty clear to me that it was, in fact, a fumble.

Turns out the ACC offices agree. Today they issued an apology to O'Brien and the football team for the blown call.

Now, to the meat and potatoes. How big of a deal is this?

In one sense, it's not that big of a deal at all. State lost by nearly three scores. What's the difference between losing by 20 or losing by 13? At this point, an apology has no bearing on the result of the game.

In another, however, the footage and the subsequent apology leave some rather large unanswered questions. One being, how on earth did the replay official, upon looking at the same footage above repeatedly for well over a minute, not conclude that that was a fumble?

Two, why was there no initial effort from the replay official to stop play and take a look at the review before moving on? Why was Tom O'Brien forced to beg for a timeout at the last moment, and why was he ignored at the time?

Three, what if State gets the ball and scores in that possession, versus Spiller scoring two plays later? It's a potential 14-point swing that could've changed the complexion of the game completely. Instead of Clemson leading 31-14, State's down three at 24-21, and while State's defense had struggled to stop Clemson to that point, a three-point game is any man's game. With everything to lose, Clemson could've tightened up and who knows.

Four--and the biggest question--if this is what can happen with replay in place, is replay even worth it? It seems the decisiveness of officials that existed before the advent of replay has now been replaced by a "well, just don't make a call and if we f**k up, the Eye In The Sky will be there to bail us out." Better to not stick your neck out and be proven wrong than to make a definitive call.

And it usually works out that way. Except in this instance, where there was no reprieve to be had for the crew on the field. There was no correction of their mistake, and now the crew is publicly humiliated (to a minor degree) with the apology from the ACC offices. Further, given that officiating crews get graded every week on their performance, this gaff could have an impact on which games this crew works in the future.

All because of a replay official in the booth unable to discern a fumble despite clear evidence of it.


  1. Maybe its because the replay official has to look at the play in that tiny window Raycom provides the rest of us instead of the full screen because we REALLY need to see TOB and Dabo standing around.

  2. deer hunting! my man. i have a theory why the review officials let the call on the field stand. becasue the replay officials failed to order a review on their own, the analysts for raycom took them to task wondering if they were eating a hotdog or taking a restroom break. so, the review officials let the call on the field stand to prove that they didn't need to order a review because it was so obvious that one wasn't needed. a cover up no doubt. sbas2

  3. i don't think it makes the crew on the field look bad (although the time out issue is a concern). they miss calls, they're human. this is the booth guys burden to bear. if you can't overturn this one, what more evidence do you need? good grief. makes you want to scrap replay and just roll the dice the old fashion way.