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Dr. Saturday

The refs are blind! No really – Outback Bowl officials make a terrible call on a first down measurement

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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(ESPN)

Fans argue all the time that a referee missed a call, but those arguments are usually subjective. The holding call that killed the drive might have been ticky-tack, but it wasn't black and white that it was a missed call. The pass interference that set up the game-winning touchdown wasn't just a phantom call - it might have been a tough call but it was debatable.

You very rarely see a football official flat out miss a call. A fourth-quarter call in the Outback Bowl was black and white. There really can be no debate. It was a blown call like we've never seen a blown call. All the officials had to do was measure for a first down, and they got that wrong.

Michigan ran a fake punt with a little more than eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, and the Wolverines made it close to the first down. Close enough for a measurement. The sticks were extended and the ball was inches short of the first down. And the referee confidently pointed a first down for ... Michigan?

The South Carolina sideline erupted in protest. Coach Steve Spurrier jumped on the field right next to the ball and started pointing out the error. The call stood, even though ESPN's camera angles made it very clear that the call was wrong and the ball was short of the first-down marker. A second angle from ESPN, which it showed after a commercial break, showed that the ball was clearly a couple inches short.

The refs flat out made the wrong call. It wasn't like this was a judgment call. They gave a first down to a team that didn't pass the sticks.

There was football justice, however. On the next play, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney forced a fumble with a tremendous hit, and the Gamecocks recovered. South Carolina went on to win with 11 seconds left on a touchdown pass.

That still doesn't mean the officials didn't make one of the worst calls you're going to see in a football game.

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