Oregon State is coming off an exhilarating 38-34 come-from-behind victory over their in-state rivals on Saturday. The Beavers looked to be in control late in the first half after James Rawls & Sione Lolohea combined to sack Bo Nix on 4th down giving Oregon State the ball near midfield. Three consecutive first down runs got the Beavers to the Oregon 14 yard line and a touchdown seemed inevitable... Until Pac-12 refs got involved. Martinez got tripped up gaining just three yards on first down and then three straight runs were questionably spotted near the 5-yard line ending the drive. Oregon marched down the field (after an incomplete pass was ruled complete) snatching a 14-10 lead at the halftime break.
Before Beaver fans knew it, Oregon was leading 31-10. Thankfully the team fought back and the faulty spots did not ultimately effect the outcome of the game, but it’s hard to deny that the calls weren’t a huge turning point and confidence builder for the Ducks. Obviously the momentum and results of a game don’t boil down to a handful of missed calls; but days later I cannot believe the officiating gaffes that occurred late in that 2nd quarter.
So let’s break down all FOUR incorrect calls frame by frame. If you want to re-watch the miserable officiating you can find it here on ESPN (starts at the 55 min mark).
This is where the questionable spots started happening near the 5-yard line. Jam Griffin makes a great cut back and gets a head full of steam running for a six yard gain. The screen-grab above is just as his knee hits. He’s short of the 5-yard line, but not by much. The officials end up marking him down at the Oregon 6-yard line though. Look at where the line judge is standing at the top left of the screen below.
Where that line judge is standing is actually a good spot, that’s about where the ball was when Jam Griffin’s knee hit the turf. BUT that’s not where the ball was ultimately spotted. Check out where Oregon State got the ball on third down.
The official box score listed this down as a 3rd & 2 (contrary to what the ABC broadcast showed). This spot certainly wasn’t egregious, but it’s definitely a couple feet behind where Jam Griffin landed and where the line judge had marked the spot with his foot. And it’s hugely important considering the next two horrible spots.
The bad spot that got the most attention was the run on 3rd-and-1. And rightfully so as it was the most egregious. Jonathan Smith even challenged this spot and after a hasty review it was inexplicably confirmed! The announcers were baffled, reporters were disturbed and the fans were irate. It looks even worse from the side view. Remember the ball was spotted behind where Damien Martinez’s knee came down and then the call was confirmed.
As you probably recall the high snap killed Damien Martinez’s ability to get a full head of steam, but here he is getting past the 5-yard line that the officials were fixated on. The side view shows Martinez get close, but ultimately fall short of the first down line. But the spot was AGAIN marked short for the Beavs. While Martinez ultimately didn’t pick up this first down who’s to say he wouldn’t have if either of the previous two spots were done accurately? It was an absurd stretch of officiating, that tipped the tide in Oregon’s favor. And if it wasn’t for a herculean late game Oregon State rally the calls might have influenced the outcome. The fact that the Pac-12 won’t comment or take accountable for these three spots is another black mark on their officials who have quite the reputation for sub-par officiating.
THE INCOMPLETE PASS
To make matters worse, on Oregon’s 13-play, 95-yard touchdown drive before the half an incomplete pass thrown to Dont’e Thornton was ruled complete. It’s tough to tell in real time if the ball hits the turf or not, Oregon State could not challenge it unfortunately after the refs “confirmed” their bad spot at the 5-yard line. As the announcers remarked the Ducks rushed to get another play off before the officials could decide whether or not to take a second look at the incompletion. Upon further review, it’s clear that the ball is not caught cleanly and should have been ruled an incompletion.
The fact that Oregon State won the game effectively absolved the officials of their shortcomings. But these were really really really bad. On top of everything why did they measure again on 4th down when they (erroneously) placed the ball in the exact same spot as the 3rd down play?! I think all of Beaver nation would really enjoy some sort of explanation from a Pac-12 spokesperson on these officiating blunders.