We all saw it. It was hideous. It was atrocious. An assault on the sanctity of football; and it couldn't have happened on a bigger stage for the Mid-American Conference.
Last night in the 2013 debut of midweek #MACtion, then second place Ohio traveled to first place Buffalo for a game that had the makings of an exciting one. Despite the lack of offense, the two teams were engaged in a bitter defensive struggle that looked to have the makings of a great finish. Then the referees got involved botching a pair of calls that changed the tone of the game.
Wednesday afternoon the Coordinator of Officials for the Collegiate Officiating Consortium (which oversees all officiating for the MAC, the Big 10 and the Missouri Valley Football Conference), Bill Carollo released a statement on the events of the evening before saying, "In my opinion, both of these plays were not handled properly by our officiating crew."
With the game tied at 0-0 at the beginning of the second quarter and Ohio driving in Buffalo territory, receiver Matt Waters went down at the end of a 3-yard catch, and the ball popped out. On TV it was clear that Waters knee hit the ground before the ball popped out, but the officials ruled the play a fumble, and after review upheld the call.
"This play should have been ruled down and the fumble overturned with Ohio maintaining possession," Carollo said in the statement.
A little more than two-minutes later, on the drive ensuing from that "turnover" Buffalo scored the first points of the second half. The 'Cats tacked on a field goal before halftime to send it to the break with the Bulls leading 7-3, but the refs weren't done.
Early in the second quarter with Ohio deep in its own territory, Tyler Tettleton dropped back with a wall of Buffalo defenders in his face. He scrambled, and eventually threw the ball away, then quite possibly the worst call ever made in the history off college football happened.
The back judge called intentional grounding on the play, and to add insult to injury ruled the play a safety, despite the fact the Tettleton was standing on the 4-yard line when he threw the ball away (THE REF WAS STANDING ON THE 2-YARD LINE!).
After that play, which according to RULE 12, Sect. 3, Art. 1 of the NCAA officiating rulebook is not reviewable, the air was snatched from the 'Cats sails. Buffalo rattled off 23 unanswered points in the second half in way to a 30-3 stomping of Ohio.
Carollo acknowledged that the referees made an erroneous call on this play In review, "the proper call was intentional grounding, however, Ohio’s Tettleton threw the pass in the field of play and not from the end zone.
This play should not have resulted in a safety. The next play should have been fourth down at the spot of the incomplete pass. This was an officiating error with regard to judgment and the officiating mechanics by the covering officials."
The statement acknowledged both calls were bad, but did nothing to address what measures would be taken in regards to punishing the referees involved in Tuesday night's game or ensuring these type of mistakes won't be made again. The calls didn't lose the game for Ohio, but they certainly made the 'Cats chances of winning a lot less probable. An apology is nice, but it's meaningless if nothing comes of it.
Here's the complete statement:
In accordance with our procedures, I have reviewed last night’s football game between Ohio and Buffalo. After my analysis, there are two plays that I acknowledge were incorrect with how they were handled both on the field by our officials and in the replay booth.
The first play with 14:51 remaining in the second quarter, where a fumble by Ohio’s Matt Waters at the Buffalo 28-yard line was ruled a fumble on the field. This is a reviewable play and after review, the replay official ruled that the play should ‘stand’. The NCAA replay philosophy with regard to overturning plays on the field is that indisputable video evidence must be provided to overturn the ruling on the field. The replay official felt this high standard was not met. However, after careful review the runner’s right leg was down before the fumble. This play should have been ruled down and the fumble overturned with Ohio maintaining possession.
In addition, early in the third quarter Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton was pressured by Buffalo defenders and threw the ball out of bounds which was ruled intentional grounding from the end zone and resulted in a safety. By rule the location of the pass attempt is not a reviewable play, per RULE 12, Sect. 3, Art. 1. In review, the proper call was intentional grounding, however, Ohio’s Tettleton threw the pass in the field of play and not from the end zone. This play should not have resulted in a safety. The next play should have been fourth down at the spot of the incomplete pass. This was an officiating error with regard to judgment and the officiating mechanics by the covering officials.As in all MAC games, every play within every game is thoroughly reviewed and graded on its accuracy and has impact on the final year end evaluation for every official. In my opinion, both of these plays were not handled properly by our officiating crew."