NCAA Football Officiating Needs To Improve

The latest controversy in the college football world comes following the matchup between Nebraska and then-undefeated Michigan State last Saturday night in Lincoln.

Nebraska’s Brandon Reilly scored the game-winning touchdown in the Cornhuskers’ 39-38 victory over the Spartans after catching a 30-yard pass from quarterback Tommy Armstrong with 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. 

However, the wide receiver went out-of-bounds before the touchdown catch, raising questions over whether he was forced out by Michigan State cornerback Jermaine Edmondson. On-field officials ruled Reilly’s catch as legal, as they believed he was indeed forced out by Edmondson. 

The play was reviewed on replay to determine whether there was contact between the two players, and whether the Nebraska wide receiver reestablished himself in play and made the catch. 

The controversy came on the severity of the contact and whether Reilly simply ran out of bounds not knowing where he was on the field, which would consequently negate the touchdown reception. The Big Ten had the following to say about the call Sunday:

“Per NCAA rules, the instant replay crew cannot review the severity of contact, as that is a judgment call handled by the officials on the field. If the player went out of bounds without contact, he may not return to the field to make the catch unless it has been touched first by an opponent. The instant replay crew did confirm contact between the players, that the wide receiver reestablished himself in the field of play and completed the catch. After the replay review, the referee announced that the play stands as the call on the field. The intent of replay is to not review all judgment calls.” – The Big Ten to ESPN

The ultimate ruling proved to be a judgment call, as it was evident Reilly made the reception after being out of bounds. Big Ten supervisor of officials Bill Carollo said the league was overall comfortable with where the call stood, as according to him, replay is not authorized to re-officiate the play. Carollo said the only thing replay could have done to overturn to illegal touching is indisputable video evidence that showed no contact at all.

You be the judge of the play:

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said he talked with Carollo Sunday but refused to comment about the officiating, stating the Spartans had chances to win the game regardless of the call and that he will let the league do its job.

While the Spartans certainly had chances to stay undefeated, referees are deciding outcomes of critical football games based on blown calls and judgment. 

A team vying for a playoff spot to play for a national championship may have lost their season due to one important call down the stretch. Now, Michigan State certainly cannot rely on the referees’ judgment to win games, but for what was at stake, to lose based on judgment is certainly a tough pill to swallow. 

The players can control what they can control, but what’s out of their control is becoming more of a problem. Poor officiating is becoming a focal point of the 2015 season, and when it affects the outcomes of games, there needs to be a change.

One Michigan State alumnus wasn’t too thrilled following the call, and thus decided to go on a bit of a rant:

And while those tweets were the clean parts of the rant, the clear frustration amounts to how referees are deciding football game outcomes through different means.

Saturday night’s controversial judgment call came after a few other incidents this season.

The Atlantic Coast Conference suspended both the on-field officiating crew and two replay booth officials following four major errors in Miami’s 30-27 victory over Duke on a kickoff returned for a touchdown on the last play. Those errors included a Miami player’s knee being down before releasing one of the eight laterals on the miracle play – a call that would have ended the game. Other errors included a Miami player leaving the bench and entering the field during the return, which would have been a dead foul ball. An illegal block was also missed.

The last controversy occurred Saturday night, when Washington State got a second chance at a fourth down conversion in its 38-24 win over Arizona State due to an “inadvertent whistle.”

The league came out and said that referee Mark Duddy and his crew made a mistake, and that the Cougars should not have been given a chance to re-play the down.

On the original 4th-and-5, Washington State’s Gabe Marker was well short of the first down marker, resulting in what should have been a turnover on downs to Arizona State. The accidental blown whistle by the line judge, however, allowed WSU another try to convert. The Cougars took advantage of the second chance, as they scored a touchdown on the play. The line judge was suspended one game.

More and more of these incidents seem to be happening, and as a result, college football outcomes continue to be impacted for better or for worse (depending which side of the fence you’re on rooting wise). For the game’s sake, however, the officiating needs to improve and become more consistent moving forward.

For one, reviews need to give the clear picture. Officials need to make the right calls following reviews. There is no reason why Miami should have won against Duke following a review. Secondly, there should be better explanations as to why reviews were decided a certain way. Often fans are given a weak explanation as to why a play stands or is reversed. If plays are b
eing reviewed under certain guidelines, this needs to be stated clearly. 

In the Nebraska-Michigan State game, there was a clear feeling of confusion as to what was being reviewed because the main question mark was based on a referee’s judgment. Officials need to be more consistent with their explanations moving forward, and they should be more careful when making those judgment calls. At the end of the day, they’re making the game worse. 

Consistency is the main concern. There should be no reason as to why Washington State got another chance at converting a fourth down based on an official’s mistake. If you’re being fair, that doesn’t happen. Either way, one team feels slighted regardless of the call. Officials have to be more careful in those situations because once again, they impact games. 

Frank Beamer Made Virginia Tech Football

Beamer Ball.

It is a phrase that has echoed throughout the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Frank Beamer, head football coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies, brought the program to prominence, and for that, has become a legend not only at Tech but across the nation as well. 

Beamer, 69, spent the past 29 years coaching at his alma mater. His record of 234-120-2 will leave him as the winningest coach in college football once he retires after this season. During his tenure, he’s led the Hokies to four ACC titles, three Big East championships, and six BCS bowl game appearances. 

Talk about an everlasting impression.

It is an impression that brought Virginia Tech nationwide attention. To many players, Beamer wasn’t just a head coach. He was a father figure, a guy to whom players could relate. And for that reason, recruits often disregarded other offers in order to play for Beamer and experience a special bond that is becoming rarer and rarer these days. 

Football is just a game, but Beamer made it so much more.

Virginia Tech, coming off a 26-10 win over Boston College, will look to sustain its impressive winning tradition through the rest of the season. Beamer has led Tech to 22 straight winning seasons and 22 consecutive bowl seasons.

From 2004 to 2011, Beamer arguably had some of his best days with the program, guiding the Hokies to 10 wins or more in eight consecutive seasons.

And while Virginia Tech has struggled as of late, having lost five games or more in each of their past four seasons, Beamer hopes to continue his team’s bowl streak. At 4-5, Virginia Tech will have to win two of its next three to keep the longest bowl streak in the FBS alive, with upcoming games against Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Beamer has come a long way. Starting 2-9 in his first season with Virginia Tech 29 years ago, the Hokies won 10 games or more in 11 of 13 years from 1999-2011.  By thoroughly dedicating himself to the university he loved, Beamer quickly brought a program from the bottom to the top.

Beamer Ball.

Legendary coaches like Nick Saban and NFL players have looked up to Beamer, calling him one of the most iconic coaches of this era.  A coach like Frank Beamer does not come along often in this day and age, and he has unquestionably left an everlasting impression on the program.

Beamer’s 277 career victories are the most of any active coach and sixth in FBS history. He is one of only 10 FBS coaches with 200+ wins at one school, with 41 wins coming against the AP Top 25 since 1995. Virginia Tech has been difficult to beat in Blacksburg with Beamer leading the way, as the Hokies have a 107-27 record (.799) at home since 1995.

Beamer’s 13 seasons with 10+ wins are only behind Ohio State (15) as the most among the Power 5 since 1995. There have also been 93 NFL draftees under his tenure, and there has been a 100 percent graduation rate of seniors at Virginia Tech since 2012. That’s not merely a coincidence. 

The accolades and accomplishments go on and on. Beamer has simply been a joy to the Virginia Tech community over the years. The style of football he has brought to Blacksburg is one of hard hits, blocked kicks, and ground and pound offense. 

Beamer Ball.

It’s hard to say whether he meant more to Virginia Tech or if Virginia Tech meant more to him. 

Beamer led Virginia Tech to the brink of a national title in 1999. The Hokies went 11-0 and beat four ranked opponents in Virginia, Syracuse, Miami, and Boston College by an average of 44-8. Tech played No. 1 Florida State in the Sugar Bowl that year, and despite then-Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick finishing with 322 total yards, the Seminoles went on to win 46-29 after scoring 18 unanswered in the fourth quarter.

By hoisting Virginia Tech’s football program from the bottom to the top of the college football community, Beamer put Lane Stadium and Blacksburg on the map.  But, ultimately, Beamer proved successful at much more than just football. His leadership as a genuine human being is what made him so special amongst the community and thus brought a one-of-a-kind relationship with his players that enabled them to achieve their goals both on and off the field.

Beamer Ball.

Boykin's TCU Is The Big 12 Team To Beat

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin isn’t just beating teams in Big 12 Conference play, he’s embarrassing them. 

In a 40-10 rout over West Virginia Thursday night, the Heisman Trophy candidate impressed in many ways–even to the point where WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen gave him a high-five after a prolific run.

Trevone Boykin finished the game completing 32 of 47 passes for 388 yards and three  touchdowns while also running for 84 yards and a rushing score–one that needs to be seen:

On the season, Boykin has 28 passing touchdowns to only five interceptions and has thrown 2,927 yards. He also has seven rushing touchdowns, as he’s making a strong case in what has become a two-man race for the Heisman with Leonard Fournette. 

Boykin now leads the nation in QBR at 88.9 and has thrown 17 touchdowns to two interceptions in Big 12 play. Two of his best performances this season have come against in-conference competition, one of which was when he tore up Iowa State’s defense completing 27 of 32 passes, throwing four touchdowns and not turning the ball over. His passer rating was 240.1 in that game. 

Boykin, despite a less than clean 63% completion rate, finished the game against Texas Tech with 485 yards passing and four touchdowns in a 55-52 escape in Lubbock. Boykin’s confidence is soaring through the roof as of late, and defenses just don’t have an answer. That’s why TCU is the team to beat in the Big 12.

With difficult road games remaining at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, along with the much anticipated home contest against Baylor on Black Friday, TCU still has a lot of football left play before being declared “the best” in the Big 12. However, with Boykin performing the way he has as of late, it’s hard to pick another team that will defeat the Horned Frogs. He’s just reading the field that well and looking at what defenses are giving him. With Baylor’s Seth Russell out for the season with a neck injury, TCU has perhaps closed the gap between the two as favorites in the conference. 

Even with Baylor’s promising true freshman backup quarterback in Jarrett Stidham, and perhaps the best receiving core in the country, TCU’s Boykin is playing at another level right now. He’s making passes you wouldn’t believe and not turning the ball over. Their quarterback play is less of a wildcard than what we can expect from the rest of the Big 12 favorites moving forward.

Holgorsen claimed once again that Boykin is the best player in college football following his team’s loss to TCU. Similar to former Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett, the WVU head coach said he is glad he doesn’t have to see Boykin again after losing to the quarterback three of four years. 

As a senior, Boykin’s completion percentage is at 66.7 percent, a jump from 61.2 percent a season ago. Sacks per game have dropped from 1.77 to 0.71, passing touchdowns per game have increased from 2.54 to 3.57, and passing yards per game have augmented from 300.08 to 362.71. Across the board, Boykin has been efficient and explosive.

TCU has explosive weapons on offense, including receiver Josh Doctson, who has 71 receptions for 1,250 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. Along with guys like running back Aaron Green, who has eight rushing touchdowns in eight games, and speedsters Kolby Listenbee and KaVontae Turpin, Boykin will look to get everyone involved as the peak of the Big 12 slate nears. 

While Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma will be huge tests for TCU, Boykin gives the Horned Frogs what they need to be the team to beat in the Big 12.

LSU's Passing Game Is Becoming More Dangerous

The fourth-ranked LSU Tigers have developed a threat even more dangerous than just Leonard Fournette with the football in his hands: a passing game led by quarterback Brandon Harris that can beat opponents as well.

Head coach Les Miles believes that his team is going in the right direction on offense in comparison to a woeful 2014 campaign. Harris has much to do with that, as the sophomore quarterback had a career-high 286 passing yards in a 48-20 win over Western Kentucky in Baton Rouge on Saturday. 

The No. 4 Tigers are becoming more balanced offensively – in contrast to what transpired over the first few weeks where the bulk of the offensive game plan relied on Fournette’s production on the ground. The Heisman candidate answered the call, running for over 200 yards per game at will, leading Harris to settle for less than 17 passes through the first four games, with 157 passing yards being the highest total throughout that span.

Harris had a total of two passing touchdowns in those four weeks. While it’s far easier said than done to stop Fournette entirely, opposing defenses are keying in on the running back and they want Harris to beat them. 

As of late, Harris has answered the call of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Against South Carolina on Oct. 10, Harris had his breakthrough in the passing game – going 18-of-28 for 228 yards and two touchdowns. His completion percentage was 64.3 percent, which was his highest since the game against Auburn Sept. 19, a game in which he had 11 fewer attempts. Against a then-undefeated Florida team, Harris had another clean performance – finishing 13-for-19 for 202 yards and two scores. 

In the past three games, Harris had seven of his nine touchdowns this season and he has yet to throw an interception. If LSU is getting 200 plus passing yards from Harris and he continues to play smart and clean, the Tigers will continue to be dangerous and a far greater national title contender.

Having a dangerous attack in the air is a reassuring feeling for LSU fans after having to deal with an Anthony Jennings-led offense in 2014.

Jennings had a completion percentage of 48.9 percent and a QBR of 46.1. He finished with 11 touchdowns to seven interceptions, and was sacked 22 times. LSU finished the season 8-5, and Jennings had one of his worst performances against Alabama – a game in which he went 8-for-26 (30.8 completion percentage), a touchdown and an interception.

Against New Mexico State earlier in the season, a game in which LSU won convincingly 63-7, it wasn’t Jennings’ doing as he finished 2-of-5 for 11 yards without a touchdown and two interceptions. He also fumbled once. 

Harris took over in relief in that game, finishing 11-of-14 for three touchdowns. It was the beginning of the future for LSU, and it has come to fruition with Harris leading the charge after these past three weeks. While Fournette has surely been dominant on the ground, Harris has impressed throwing the football as well.

Nebraska Needs To Learn How To Win Close Games

Nebraska’s five losses in the 2015 season have come by a combined 13 points. 

The latest installment to the Cornhuskers’ wild season came Saturday when Northwestern edged out a 30-28 win in Lincoln. 

Nebraska head coach Mike Riley has dealt with some tough luck in his first season coming over from Oregon State. Currently, at 3-5 overall and 1-3 in conference, Nebraska’s five losses are the most since Bill Callahan’s team went 5-7. They’d have to win three of their next four to qualify for a bowl game.

Against Northwestern, the Huskers played very well at times but also saw drops from receivers and miscues on the defensive end. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong finished with two rushing TD’s but also had a 50 percent completion rate with a passing touchdown and an interception.

Riley’s only Big 10 win has come on the road against Minnesota. The inconsistencies on offense continued on the ground against Northwestern when Nebraska rushed for a season-low 82 yards. 

To turn the season around, Nebraska must learn how to win close games. Husker fans have certainly been on a wild ride that saw:

  • A Hail Mary loss to BYU

  • A fourth-quarter comeback against Miami only to lose in overtime

  • A late collapse in a one-point loss to Illinois

  • A 46-yard Wisconsin field goal with four seconds left 

Throw in some bad luck and some poor late-game execution, and Nebraska is on the brink of not making a bowl game. One of the more historically storied programs in the country, the Huskers have made 51 all-time bowl appearances, and an NCAA-record 35 consecutive bowl games from 1969 to 2003.

Riley, who was deemed Nebraska’s savior coming into the job, has underachieved in his first season in Lincoln. It started with this:

Nebraska’s remaining schedule will see games at Purdue and Rutgers, and home games against Michigan State and Iowa. Two of those four teams are currently ranked.

There’s a good chance that one of those games will go down the wire, and for Nebraska to come out on top, it will need to find ways to win in tight situations. Previously this season, the Huskers dropped a 13-point fourth-quarter lead at Illinois, as well as coming back from 23 points down against Miami, only to lose in overtime on an Armstrong interception.

Under former head coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska lost only three fourth-quarter leads in seven years. A bad year was considered eight or nine wins for the Huskers under Pelini. Now Nebraska can only achieve as many as eight wins with a bowl victory after winning its next four in the regular season. 

For Riley, and any other coach in general, it’s certainly an adjustment. Coming into a new program and immediately succeeding doesn’t happen very often. For the Nebraska faithful, however, it’s not a good first impression. 

Following the loss to Northwestern, a lot of people took to Twitter to give their thoughts on Nebraska’s far too common script this season:

Until Nebraska proves it can win late, this ride might get even bumpier.