Pac-12 football has a great product that more and more of the country is beginning to witness on a regular basis. The age of USC and the eleven dwarves is long gone, replaced by a multipolar league filled with interesting teams and interesting styles. The conference has had as many as six teams in the top-25, and currently sports three in the top ten of the BCS standings. There's a lot to like about where Pac-12 football is right now.
But those damned officials continue to mess it up.
The Stanford vs. Notre Dame ending is one of those perfect gaffes that sums up how incompetent Pac-12 officiating can ruin results without giving opponents even the slightest shot at reviewing the call. Who exactly blows a whistle early on a goal-line stand, and particularly on 4th and goal?
Former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said on FoxSports.com: "I've looked at the play from every angle, and I think the call should have been reversed to a touchdown. Forward progress was not ruled, and there was not a whistle that was blown before Taylor was ruled down. The ball broke the plane before it came loose, which makes that aspect of it irrelevant."
According to Pereira, "This was one of those plays that you had to look at from every angle. The closest part of Taylor's body to the ground was his left elbow, but it seemed pretty apparent to me that, by piecing the different shots together, the elbow did not touch the ground until after the ball had crossed the plane."
Stepfan Taylor never had his initial progress halted by a Notre Dame defender, he certainly never went down, and he was definitely still moving forward without having his progress impeded by any of the Irish. He was still working his way forward and trying to get the football into the end zone throughout the play. A player shouldn't be called down until he's no longer able to move forward, and Taylor was clearly plowing ahead on this play.
The problem with the whistle being blown early is that it becomes nearly impossible to overturn the call. Whereas if the play had been ruled a touchdown, there is a definite chance the play will at least be reviewed and has the potential of being reversed. With the early whistle, there's no shot at an overturn, because the angles are inconclusive in every aspect. With a touchdown ruling, the review at least centers around where the elbow or the arm touches the ground.
Being risk-averse in this situation didn't just cost the Cardinal victory, it cost the Cardinal any shot at victory.
Add in the overwhelming number of flags for every team (they just keep on coming for all of us!) and it's clear Pac-12 refs still are satisfying practically no one with the way they call football games. This week it was Stanford getting the wrong end; who's next?