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Refs may have aided Oregon State's win with onside kick call

Published September 9, 2012 5:44 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Oregon State dominated the first 58 minutes of its 10-7 win over No. 13 Wisconsin on Saturday at Reser Stadium. Its defense was relentless. OSU forced two turnovers, sacked Danny O'Brien three times and forced the Maryland transfer quarterback into a dreadful 20-of-38 passing day that yielded a mere 172 yards.

Still, the Badgers had a chance to win. After scoring a touchdown with 1:31 left in the game, the Badgers lined up an onside kick. The ball dribbled forward and was recovered by kicker Kyle French. By rule, the ball must travel 10 yards before the kicking team can recover it. Initially, Wisconsin was awarded the ball but a booth review led to a reversal and Oregon State was able to run out the clock for a win in what coach Mike Riley called the biggest non-conference game ever played in Corvallis.

On TV, Fox Sports officials analyst Mike Pereira advocated for a reversal of the call, after multiple angles showed French grabbing the ball shy of the 45-yard-line. Cool. Happy day for the Beavers. Game over.

But not so fast. The reversal seemed questionable at the time. It appeared to be moving backwards when French got to it, meaning its path was reversed (presumably by an Oregon State player). That's the case Pereira made in a mea culpa on FoxSports.com posted early Sunday morning.

The kicked ball was going forward the entire time and when it reached the 45-yard line, it suddenly went backward. After looking at it several times, it appears that Oregon State receiver Tyrequek Zimmerman may have touched the ball first. Watching again, I could see his fingers going backward before French recovered the ball at the 44.

The other thing I want to emphasize is this: Indisputable visual evidence. I talk about it all it time and how that is what's required to overturn a call on the field. After watching the replays, I really don't think there was indisputable evidence to overturn the call made on the field. From every angle available, there is a short period of time where the ball disappears.

Wrote ESPN Wisconsin writer Tom Lea of the play: "Unless we're dealing with the football equivalent of the magic bullet theory, that probably means an Oregon State player hit it. It should have been Wisconsin ball with approximately a minute and a half to play."

The Badgers would have needed to go about 25 yards to get in field goal range, perfectly plausible despite the fact Wisconsin had traveled a total of 207 yards and was 2-of-14 on third downs.

One can only imagine the scene in Corvallis if the Beavers had let that win get away. Thanks to an unbelievable day of defense, however, and maybe some help from the officiating crew, Beaver Nation got to celebrate.

— Bill Oram