Jeff Gravley

Controversial call a game changer, not game loser

Posted September 20, 2013

Wide receiver Bryan Underwood (80) runs after a catch during the Clemson vs. NC State game on September 19, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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.


This blogpost is closed for comments.

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  • TruthBKnown Banned Again03 Sep 21, 4:20 p.m.

    Check this one out...

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again03 Sep 21, 4:09 p.m.

    A lot of ACC prestige, and the money surrounding it, that comes with a #3, and potentially... View More

    — Posted by TVs_Deceit

    I agree that it's a bad call when seen on instant replay, but to insinuate that an official... View More

    — Posted by 4tarheels

    Good comments! IMO-- sports are often "over-thought-over-analyzed". Football... 22... View More

    — Posted by Objective Scientist

    But TVs_Deceit brings up a good point. There were potentially millions of dollars to the ACC... View More

    — Posted by SaveEnergyMan

    Of course that is what it is about.

    Problem is, Clemson just isn't that good. They're going to lose and they're going to drop. And State will still have been robbed in the end.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again03 Sep 21, 4:08 p.m.

    I don't know how much the Game Officials get paid per game, but maybe they should be docked pay... View More

    — Posted by cherokee43v6

    If you think you could do better, have at it. While some officials are worse than others, you... View More

    — Posted by hi_i_am_wade

    You cannot tell from those pictures that he was out. It looks right inside the line, and even if it was an inch over the line, if that side of his foot wasn't flat on the ground, it may not be touching.

    And if it is THAT close, the ref had no business calling it out. We have to freeze frame it just to get even the most iffy photos.

  • grayboomerang Sep 21, 3:46 p.m.

    Refs got it right. You might not like it but he did barely step out. Would it have changed the... View More

    — Posted by jhk0704

    Um no,it didn't.

  • grayboomerang Sep 21, 3:44 p.m.

    I was wondering how long it would take before state fans starting blaming UNC. It starts with... View More

    — Posted by 4tarheels one cares about UNC.

  • grayboomerang Sep 21, 3:33 p.m.

    A lot of ACC prestige, and the money surrounding it, that comes with a #3, and potentially... View More

    — Posted by TVs_Deceit

    Yup...and don't forget the "time out" whistle AFTER State intercepted the ball and already had the lead at that point.

    The NCAA/ACC is all about money and you're right, they do not want our number 3 booted out of the top 10. If the calls were fair, no one would be moaning and groaning...but these were lame calls.

  • grayboomerang Sep 21, 3:28 p.m.

    Mr. Gravely,
    You can't say for sure that did not cause a game loser. That is not the issue.....the issue is pathetic referees, who have no business being referees. The ACC has some of the worst ones in the nation. I say that for all ACC teams, not just the State incident.

  • ncdedhed Sep 21, 11:07 a.m.

    Wah wah wah! Take the TD and the PAT. Final score still Clemson 26, Our State of Confusion's team 21.

    And to think you call UNC a "whine and cheese crowd".

  • rherring23 Sep 20, 11:12 p.m.

    Yes, I know the ref is part of the game that still changed that play! But this isn't about one... View More

    — Posted by sllenterprises

    That's alright. State is 2-1, after Saturday UNC will be 1-2. And UNC could not play Clemson or FSU as close as State does if UNC wasn't too scared to play either one. This year just like last year, UNC doesn't play either one of the top two teams in the conference. At least State gets their conference record honestly unlike UNC by playing the middle to lower teams in the conference.

  • rherring23 Sep 20, 10:57 p.m.

    I was wondering how long it would take before state fans starting blaming UNC. It starts with... View More

    — Posted by 4tarheels

    Good comment! Succinctly... I know Swofford... have for decades. Honest man with great... View More

    — Posted by Objective Scientist

    Ok, I don't really buy the conspiracy stuff, but to say Swofford has any integrity, you are either not being very honest or have blinders on. After the incident between Dean Smith and Rick Barnes and Swofford secretly goes behind Clemson's back and tries to get all the other ADs in the league to discipline Clemson, about the only people that question Swofford's lack of integrity are UNC fans.




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