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Film Study: What went wrong in the final seconds of Wisconsin-Arizona State

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

At the end of Saturday’s Wisconsin-Arizona State game, there was confusion, there was shock, there was dismay.

A strange sequence of events in the final 18 seconds of the game halted a potential game-winning drive for Wisconsin, gave Arizona State a 32-30 win and caused the Pac-12 Conference to issue a public reprimand to the officials in the game.

So what exactly happened?

In this week’s Film Study, we look at the final 18 seconds frame-by-frame and show the officials weren’t the only ones to blame in this bizarre ending.

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It all starts with Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave and his awkward kneel down. He actually runs into the back of his offensive lineman, which throws him off balance while trying to take a kneel. There was some debate as to whether he actually took a knee. He thinks he did, so he...

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In an unprecedented move, Stave places the ball on the turf and steps back. This is when chaos ensues. It was a dumb move on Stave's part and it causes confusion for everyone involved.

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Because the ball is on the ground, Arizona State players decide to fall on it and continue to stay down for several seconds without the official doing anything. In fact, if you watch this part of the video, the official starts talking to one of the other ASU players while his teammate catches a few Zzz's on the ball. If you're wondering, a delay of game penalty should have been assessed here.

But while we're all looking at the dude on the ground, Wisconsin players are making no effort to get him off the ball, hurry to the line or do anything that would signify the desire to try to win this game. Stave is standing there instead of getting his team ready for what should have been an ensuing spike play.

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By the time the official gets the play off the ball, we are now down to 4 seconds. That's right, an ASU player laid on the ball for 9 seconds and no one did anything. This is as much on the Wisconsin players as it is on the officials. And there's still no urgency from Wisconsin. One of the guys on the line isn't even facing the right way.

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It takes the official one more second to actually place the ball and then he tells the Wisconsin players to wait as precious seconds tick away. Still, Stave doesn't hit panic mode until he looks up at the clock and realizes that those 18 seconds he thought he had have dwindled to 3.

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Oh look, Wisconsin players finally realize the clock is ticking down, but none of them are actually ready to hike the ball. Three of them are pointing, two have their hands out in confusion and the center looks like he's fallen asleep.

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So, when Wisconsin finally hikes and spikes the ball, the clock has run out. Heck, none of the Arizona State players even really bothered to get set.

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Wisconsin players protest to the officials, who were rightfully reprimanded by the Pac-12, but the players also have to take some responsibility for not having more urgency during those finally 18 seconds. If they had, they could have avoided this face:

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What do you think? Was this totally on the officials or does Wisconsin need to realize their nonchalant attitude also played a role in this loss? On the flipside, did Arizona State orchestrate (and get away with) the most spectacular time-wasting strategy to snatch victory from the hands of defeat? If you want to give out credit for this win, it should go to the guy who distracted the official in the first place and the guy on top of the ball.

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