Yesterday was not the Big 12’s day, and it all started with the wild finish in Stillwater. Up 27-24 with 0:04 left on the game clock, coach Mike Gundy drew up the ol’ arm punt on fourth down to close out the game.
Sure enough, by the time the ball hit out of bounds, the clock was a triple zeros. Game over. But not so fast. The officials called intentional grounding on the play since quarterback Mason Rudolph didn’t get out of the pocket.
The officials called it right. It is intentional grounding. How they implied the penalty though, was anything, but correct. They ruled that since it was a loss of down penalty, CMU would get one untimed down, and the Chippewas made the most of it.
Out of field goal range, CMU’s only chance was to heave it deep and pray for the best. What Oklahoma State was completely unprepared for, was the potential lateral should the throw fall short of the endzone, and Jesse Kroll and Corey Willis made the Pokes pay.
— FS1 (@FS1) September 10, 2016
Amazingly, what no one caught, not anyone on the Oklahoma State sideline, not the MAC refs officiating the game, not even the Big 12 replay officials upstairs, is that CMU should never have been awarded the untimed down.
The rule is convoluted, but it basically states that the game cannot end on an accepted live-ball penalty, with one exception: if the penalty results in a loss of down.
I don’t fault a coach or his staff for not knowing every intricacy of the rule book. Especially when you have just a few seconds to catch the mistake. It’s not their job to officiate the game for the refs.
However, if you think about any basic penalty that anyone that follows college football should be familiar with, it should have been obvious that there was a mistake being made.
There are only two outcomes in any penalty, besides tacked on yardage: loss of down or replay the down. So never in any penalty situation should CMU have received the ball. Regardless of what the flag was for, either OSU loses the down and the game is over, or OSU has to replay the down. (Which would be ridiculous because they would just knee it out.)
That’s why it is commonly thought (at least up until Saturday) that only a defensive penalty can extend the game. If the offense is trying to score, but draw a flag, they either lose the down or the defense would decline the penalty and everyone would go home. There is even a 10-second clock runoff to keep the offense from gaining an advantage by committing a penalty late in a game.
Athletic Director Mike Holder released a statement following the game expressing frustration that nothing could be done to overrule the final outcome. Afterall, this is not a “what if” situation. The game, by the rules, was over.
“We had conversations with everyone that could help us understand the situation and do something about the outcome. We were told the result is final and there is nothing we can do about it,” Holder said in a statement. “In my mind, it is incomprehensible that a misapplication of the rules after time has expired can’t be corrected.”
Holder has a point. Oklahoma State has seen their fair share of blown calls and Holder has a drawer full of Big 12 apology letters. This is different, there’s no Butterfly Effect to consider. Meaning, there’s no guessing that the rest of the game would have gone exactly as it did had the call been made correctly. No, the game was literally over when Rudolph’s pass hit the ground. Why have rules if they don’t mean anything or can’t be corrected? If there’s a rule that says the game cannot be overturned, why can’t that rule be broken if every other one can?
Where is the integrity of the sport? Does it lie within the integrity of the officials of any given game? This was by all accounts a mistake. But, what if it wasn’t? Had Gundy thrown a fit on the sidelines or had the Big 12 replay officials buzzed down, but the MAC officials went with it anyway, what then? Is there never any recourse?
Regardless, coach Mike Gundy is tired of talking about it. What is done is done, and he would like it if everyone just moved on.
“I’m disappointed in myself that I called a play that could have been interpreted as intentional grounding,” Gundy said in a statement on Sunday. “That play has been in our playbook for 12 years now and intentional grounding and an untimed down after the last play of the game never even crossed my mind. Of course in hindsight, I wish I would have done it differently, but in the big picture, the game should have been over. While I’m disappointed in myself, I am also disappointed that we had 10 rules officials who didn’t properly apply the rule. I give credit to Central Michigan for coming up with a great play and executing it as well as they did.
“My reason for reaching out to you with this statement is this — we have another game on Saturday and letting the end of the Central Michigan game linger into this week would not help our team in any way. I want this to be our final official comment on the end of the Central Michigan game, so we can close the book on it and move forward to Pittsburgh. In our program, we talk all the time about controlling the things we can control and not getting caught up in the things we can’t control. We can control how we focus on and prepare for Pittsburgh. We can’t control the decisions that were made Saturday, so I do not believe it benefits our coaches or players to dwell on them and re-hash them beyond what we already did during post-game interviews, the comments that our athletic director made yesterday and now with this statement from me today.”