ACC admits officials screwed up the clock at the end of Wake Forest's 24-18 win over UNC

Wake Forest took a 21-3 lead over North Carolina before hanging on for a 24-18 win. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Wake Forest took a 21-3 lead over North Carolina before hanging on for a 24-18 win. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Could North Carolina have run one more play Friday night?

The Tar Heels lost 24-18 to Wake Forest after Michael Carter got stopped at the Wake 43 while the clock ran out. But it should not have expired, according to the ACC.

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The conference admitted Saturday morning that there should have been a second left after Carter’s carry.

“Following a review of the available footage provided from the television broadcast, it has been determined that one second remained when the on-field official indicated that the ball carrier’s forward progress had been stopped at the 43-yard line,” a statement from the ACC’s Dennis Hennigan said. “Since the on-field officials ruled that time had expired on the play, the replay official should have stopped the game for further review and put one second on the clock. Once one second was put back on the clock, the ball would have been spotted at the 43-yard line and the game clock started upon the referee’s signal. All disciplinary measures related to the replay officials are being handled internally and the ACC considers this matter closed.”

With just 43 yards to go to the goal line, North Carolina would have easily been within range of trying a potential game-winning Hail Mary with one more play.

But would the play have been able to be run? Carter’s inability to get down or out of bounds earlier in his rushing attempt puts the possibility of a play in doubt.

Carter wasn’t ruled out of bounds

The key portion of the ACC’s statement is the part that says the clock would have started on the referee’s signal and that Carter’s forward progress was stopped. If you watch the video above, you’ll notice that the official on that sideline rules the clock to keep going because Carter was going backwards when he went out of bounds.

Had Carter been ruled out of bounds, the game clock would have started on the snap of North Carolina’s final play. But since he was ruled down via forward progress after getting a first down, the clock would start on the referee’s signal after the ball would have been spotted for play. And it’s no guarantee that North Carolina would have been able to line up correctly and get the ball snapped in the second after the referee’s signal — especially if the right clock decision had been made on the field without a replay review.

It’s not great for the ACC that its replay officials missed a clear end-of-game issue in a one-possession contest. But North Carolina also put itself in a situation with incredibly thin margins too. Had the offense simply gained three or four yards instead of 13, there would have been plenty of time for a spike and a near-guaranteed shot at a Hail Mary.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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