Monday, January 02, 2006

The Call that Completely Ruined the Outback Bowl

Absolutely Awful

The Outback bowl, featuring Iowa and Florida was shaping up to be a classic. Down 31-7 going into the fourth quarter, Drew Tate started a late game charge, throwing two touchdowns to Hinkel, one with 13:51 remaining, and the second with 6:59 to go. Starting the quarter down by 24 points, the game looked out of hand, but suddenly, it looked like Drew Tate migh be able to perform some late game magic. If you'll remember, last season Tate threw a huge game-winning touchdown from mid-field last year in the Capitol One Bowl versus LSU.

After scoring the second touchdown, the Iowa Hawkeyes were down by 10. They punted to Florida, and looked to have all the momentum in the world, stopping Florida on third down a yard short. Florida pulled out a dangerous fake punt close to their own end zone, and managed to secure a first down. The gators then proceeded to wear off four minutes off the clock and force Iowa to use its three timeouts. The Gators eventually lost the ball with a little over two minutes remaining trying to go for it on another fourth down.

Iowa proceeded to drive the field and kick a fieldgoal, making it a one possession game with 1:11 remaining. They set up for the on-side kick, got a perfectly executed hop, and recovered the football, setting up a story book ending, giving Tate a chance to pull out another game winning touchdown in the final minute of a bowl game.

But wait - a flag on the field - "Offside" declares the Conference USA ref. They replayed the kickoff five or six times, and the player in question was definately onside. Horribly bad call. Instead of a storybook ending, Iowa is forced to rekick another low percentage onside kick attempt, which Florida recovers, and promptly takes a knee to win the game. The play was close, but the Iowa player was definately on-side. With instant replay, there is no excuse to have a referee blow a call on the most important play of the game, essentially awarding the Outback Bowl to the Florida Gators on a silver platter.

This is not the only bowl game that was decided by poor refing. Ultimately, the Michigan Wolverines lost the Alamo bowl to the Nebraska Cornhuskers due to poor execution in the fourth quarter. They had a chance to put the game away, up 28-17 and deep into Nebraska territory late in the fourth quarter. Three turnovers in the second half of the fourth quarter was the ultimate difference. But the referees did their best to help out Nebraska. Ultimately, the Wolverines lost because they did not have time to complete a final drive to win the game.

Bad calls by the Refs:

  • Forcing Michigan to use two of their timeouts to dispute plays that definatley should have been under review. The supposed touchdown called by the refs was an obviously hit the ground, and it is a travesty that the Wolverines had to use a timeout to get the call reversed.

  • I still think the supposed fumble by Henne was simply an imcomplete pass. This was the second time this season the Wolverines were burned by a similar looking play. A similar play deep in Michigan State Spartans led to a Spartans touchdown which almost cost the Wolverines the game. Calling that a fumble was a huge break for Nebraska. What was worse was that the refs failed to act promptly to declare the play "under review" when it was an obvious questionable call. Forcing the Wolverines to use yet another timeout late in the game was unconsinable.

  • Next up was late in the game, when Michigan forced Nebraska to a fourth down with a minute and change left in the game. With no timeouts remaining thanks to the refs, the Wolverines were at the mercy of the clock. Rather than spot the ball immediately, the refs waited for a seemingly insane amount of time before spotting the ball. The Wolverines should have got the ball back with about forty-five to fifty seconds remaining, which is just enough time to put together a drive in college football. Instead, the refs let the clock run out, and the Wolverines got the ball back with 26 seconds. At this point, I almost feel like the refs calling these games have money riding on them.
  • Finally, we come to the infamous final play of the game. With no time remaining on the clock, the Wolverines resorted to a gimmick hook and ladder, end up lateralling the ball nine times, and end up with a streaking Ecker and Breaston running down the sideline. Suddenly, a bunch of Nebraska coaches and players start running all over the field - there were literally about a hundred players on the field while the game was still going. Ecker and Breaston should have had room to operate to make it into the endzone, but we'll never know whether all those coaches standing in the way influenced Ecker's decision to hold on to the ball and try to make it into the endzone, rather than trying to look for Breaston who was right behind him. With all the coaches and players in the way, it certainly appeared that the only option Ecker had was to run down the sideline and try to will his way into the endzone. Ecker made it to the Nebraska thirteen yard line before being tackled. How was a penalty not called when there were 100 Nebraska players occupying space on the field? How did the refs make so many questionable and bad decisions in this game.

This is the end of my rant on College Football refs. There have been a lot of exciting college football games, and a lot of great endings. I'm going to take some time to discuss the positives of the Michigan/Nebraska game a little later, but for now I still have four or five great bowl games to watch.