Boise State fans may not have liked the call that decided the game.
But BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick has some complaints of his own from Saturday night.
Roderick this week lamented the fact his unit only scored seven points in the first half against Boise State. But the coordinator was also quick to point out he thought officials took away two touchdowns from offense that could have changed the tenor of the game early on.
“We scored twice,” Roderick said. “... Maybe I’ll get fined for saying this, but I think they missed both of those calls.”
Roderick was referencing two controversial plays in goal-to-go situations right before the half that could have given the Cougars the lead.
On second-and-goal from the 10-yard line, and 14 seconds to play, quarterback Jaren Hall threw a pass Puka Nacua in the end zone. Nacua caught the ball, and appeared to have a foot in the end zone, but was pushed by the Boise State defender. When he fell, he landed at the 1-yard line and officials ruled the ball dead there instead of a touchdown.
“Puka’s catch was a touchdown,” Roderick said. “They hit him. Our video, it is clear to us, that he caught the ball in the end zone and then got knocked out. Then this ball was clearly across the goal line as well. There was not a camera angle, I guess, that allowed the officials to overturn it.”
Notably, the FS2 broadcast did not have a goal-line camera that is normally used to review if the ball crossed the goal line or if a player’s foot was in. Head coach Kalani Sitake said after the game he thought goal line cameras should be standard practice across college football games.
“I don’t know. I can’t see it,” Sitake said if he thought it was a missed call. “I think maybe we should have a camera on the goal line at every game. That would probably be helpful. But from what [officials] are seeing, they are just calling the game like they see it.”
The next play also involved a goal-line situation that Roderick thinks was missed. Running back Lopini Katoa ran the ball at the 1-yard line and appeared to get the nose of the ball across for a touchdown. It was close, but officials ruled him short of the end zone. Upon review, the call could not be overturned and there was no camera angle to get a clear look.
BYU was stuffed and time expired without points.
“What we need to do is make it clear,” Roderick said. “[Katoa] has got to get the ball more across the line, I guess. Even if we did [get the ball across the line]. Get his whole body in the end zone. That was disappointing because I thought we executed both of those plays well enough to get a touchdown.”
Both plays ended up being footnotes in a 31-28 BYU win. However, they did change the direction of the game. What could have been a 14-7 lead for BYU at the half ended up being a tie game.
Boise State would eventually take a 14-7 of its own and the game devolved into a shootout where BYU was playing from behind. Sitake was quick to say he did not have an issue with the officiating crew beyond the lack of a goal-line camera.
“Obviously I wish all the stuff went in our favor,” Sitake said. “This crew did a great job of communicating. All the refs we have been involved with this year have done a great job. I have no complaints. In their explanation to me [of those calls], it was good communication. I appreciate them explaining it to me even though we are not happy about it.”
On the flip side, Boise State’s offense also had a handful of controversial calls against it that could not be overturned. In the second half, a Boise State running back was called down just short of the goal line when it looked like the ball was across the line. The call wasn’t overturned because of a lack of a camera.
Boise wound up scoring on the next play.
Nacua’s game-winning touchdown catch was also reviewed to see if he got his foot in bounds. Photos would later show the foot was in, but officials at the time did not have access to those photos. The call stood, even if there wasn’t clear video evidence. Boise State argued the call was wrong.
“It’s OK. We can move on,” Sitake said of the officials. “Because I think [the officials] are calling it as fair as they see it.”