Controversial call a game changer, not game loser
Posted September 20, 2013
Standing outside of Carter-Finley Stadium Thursday night after Clemson's 26-14 win, it was pretty obvious how irate NC State fans were about the call, the lack of a review and the momentum changing play in the third quarter.
Bryan Underwood was on his way to a go-ahead touchdown against the 3rd-ranked Tigers. He tight-roped his way down the sidelines for an apparent 83-yard score, but the trail official saw it differently.
The whistle blew, the official waved his arms above his head and planted his foot into the ground at the 47 yard line. What he saw was Underwood step out of bounds, even though there were two players between him and the fast moving feet of the NC State wide receiver.
The play was blown dead.
Following the game, Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren said he was close enough to be a key witness.
“It was right in front of me. He didn’t go out of bounds,” the first-year coach said.
Multiple replays seem to support Doeren's view, and eventually the ESPN broadcast team agreed that Underwood was not out of bounds. But the TV crew was also talking about indisputable evidence needed on the replay. There couldn't be a replay or challenge.
You can't review a play that's blown dead, because players could argue that they stopped playing because they heard a whistle. You can review or challenge a play after a whistle IF it happens at or inside the 5 yard line and there is an immediate score.
“Unfortunately, they blew it dead so they couldn’t review it," Doeren explained. "It was an unfortunate deal. The guy felt bad about it. You can’t do anything about it. It’s just the way it is.”
So if a whistle had NOT blown and the play continued, it would have fallen under the category of a scoring play. All scoring plays are under review by the replay officials upstairs. Had Clemson disagreed, they could have challenged.
Instead, NC State gets the ball near midfield. Three plays later, quarterback Pete Thomas got sacked and fumbled. Clemson needed just five plays for a Tajh Boyd touchdown pass that made the score 20-7 Tigers instead of 14-13 Wolfpack.
Let's get one thing straight. The Underwood call at midfield didn't LOSE the game for NC State, it CHANGED the game with a 14-point swing in favor of the nation's third-ranked team.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said they couldn't load up the buses soon enough and get out of town.
Just before midnight, as we pulled away in our WRAL live van, I saw Doeren walking to his car with a blank stare on his face.
The look said everything. Opportunity there, opportunity missed to knock off the third-ranked team in the country.
ACC issues statement on Underwood call
Late Friday afternoon, Doug Rhoads, coordinator of officials for the ACC issued this statement about the call:
In last night’s Clemson at NC State game, the official ruled the runner stepped out of bounds and whistled the ball dead. In conformance with NCAA Guidelines, the replay official properly recognized the play as one that was not eligible for review.
Our office has viewed all available angles, each numerous times, in slow motion and freeze frame. It is not clear, in reviewing all angles, whether the runner stepped out of bounds or avoided any contact with the sideline. We recognize that within the number of images and angles viewed, some look like he did not step out of bounds while one looks like he did step out of bounds.
In the end, this cannot be resolved beyond all doubt.