Auburn seeks clarification from SEC on pass interference call
Two second half penalties at key moments dealt a significant blow to the momentum the Auburn Tigers had firmly in its grasp Saturday afternoon in Starkville.
After spotting Mississippi State a 21-0 lead early thanks to two turnovers, Auburn played the Bulldogs even over the final three and a half quarters. But a fourth quarter pass interference call on cornerback Jonathan Jones extended a State drive that would lead to a field goal and a 31-20 lead.
According to defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, the Auburn staff sent the play to the league office asking for clarification on the call. On 4th-and-eight, Dak Prescott was looking for De’Runnya Wilson in the end zone who was battling with Jones for the jump ball. Both receivers were fighting for position; the ball fell incomplete and the flag went against Auburn.
That play would prove pivotal as Ricardo Louis would fumble on the ensuing kickoff leading to another State touchdown, icing the game.
Johnson says he felt that call could’ve gone either way.
“I think he played pretty good and I really thought he was in good position on the call that he got,” Johnson told AL.com. “There was a lot of pushing and shoving by both guys, and I don’t know how you just call it on one instead of the other.”
Jones said he conferred with Wilson and the two agreed the call could have gone in the way of either player.
“I definitely didn’t,” Jones said. “I talked to the receiver, I know he agreed with me, but that’s just part of the game, though, you’ve just got to deal with that and move on.”
According to AL.com‘s Brandon Marcello, Johnson wanted clarification in order to use the call as a teaching moment.
“We always ask [the SEC], and I’m not questioning the officials, but we send them in,” Johnson said. “It’s part of the whole routine, so they can evaluate themselves and a lot of times they can explain it to us, here’s what the player is going to have to do if you don’t want that call and the last time we sent him in, he’s got to get his around and make an attempt to find the ball and he did. But there was contact. We thought it was contact from both sides, so I don’t know if it was a missed call. I just felt like it was a tough call that went against us.”
The Tigers had already endured one questionable call earlier in the half. A 70-yard completion to Sammie Coates was called back due to offensive pass interference. Marcello figures that play is one of several Auburn officials sent to the SEC office.
The league will not comment publicly on the calls, however.
“Each school sends in plays each week to the league office for discussion and clarification,” a league spokesman said. “There would be no further comment from the SEC regarding [the plays].”