SEC officiating boss points to how controversial Arkansas ruling was handled correctly, and was wrong
The messy ending to the Arkansas-Auburn game last week took on an added layer of disappointment when the SEC’s supervisor of officials, John McDaid, said this week that part of the process was correct, and part of it was a mistake.
McDaid spoke exclusively with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and explained both elements. As the paper describes the play, Auburn QB Bo Nix bobbled the snap on a third-and-1 play from the Arkansas 19, and the ball fell to the wet grass. Nix picked the ball up, pivoted right and “clocked” the ball backward with 30 seconds left in the game and Arkansas leading 28-27.
Arkansas safety Joe Foucha made an initial dive for the ball at the Auburn 26, bumped it further into the backfield, then scrambled and recovered it ahead of Auburn receiver Shedrick Jackson after the ball hit the foot of center judge Mike Block, who was blowing his whistle and signaling an incomplete pass.
To have the play overturned, as the majority of fans and media believe should have happened, McDaid said two things had to happen. The review had to show the ball clearly was thrown backward, and it had to show the recovery was made in the “immediate continuous loose-ball action,” and that’s where this play got tricky.
Ultimately, it’s a judgement call.
“The replay team, upon seeing players reacting to the signals and the whistle of the center judge, concluded that the immediate loose-ball action had ended without any player securing possession,” McDaid said.
The wrong judgement was made on the field, and McDaid admits that if an incorrect ruling happens at the wrong place in a game, the game does pivot on that call.
“It’s unfortunate, and I don’t know that I can say anything more than that,” McDaid said.
He then shared how he thinks the officials reacted.
“My strong suspicion of what happened is that when the snap was mishandled and hit the ground, and then the quarterback subsequently picked it up, the referee cued into, ‘This is one of the two scenarios where you’re no longer allowed to legally ground the ball for the purposes of conserving time,’ and sure enough the quarterback goes and spikes the ball into the ground,” McDaid said. “My strong suspicion is the referee locked into that component of the play and unfortunately failed to recognize that the ball was thrown backwards, that it was a backwards pass.
“We made the wrong judgment on the field and ruled it as an incomplete forward pass with a flag for intentionally grounding the ball after it had touched the ground. So that’s what happened on the field.”
McDaid admitted that he is aware of the disappointment in Arkansas, especially after conversations with Hunter Yurachek and coach Sam Pittman.
“I have had conversations with both of them,” he said. “This office, my office, the officiating department, is well aware of the disappointment of the Arkansas football community with what transpired at the end of the game on Saturday. In both conversations, I talked to them about how the ruling on the field was incorrect, the ruling in the replay booth I’m very comfortable with, and we followed the protocols as outlined by the NCAA’s replay rules.”