Central Michigan beats Oklahoma State on wild Hail Mary after officiating error

Nick Bromberg
Dr. Saturday

An intentional grounding penalty on No. 22 Oklahoma State gave Central Michigan one play to upset the Cowboys. And damn did that play work out beautifully even if CMU shouldn’t have gotten the opportunity.

CMU quarterback Cooper Rush threw a Hail Mary down the field that was caught by wide receiver Jesse Kroll. The ball was then lateraled to Corey Willis, who ran the ball in for the touchdown and a 30-27 win.

The intentional grounding penalty was called when Oklahoma State had fourth down inside CMU territory with four seconds left. The play was for quarterback Mason Rudolph to simply heave the ball as far as he could out of bounds to let the last few seconds expire. The play worked in that respect. The clock ran out.

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But with no receivers in pass patterns and Rudolph still in the pocket, he was called for intentional grounding. CMU got the ball on the OSU 49 for its chance to win. But here’s why the following play shouldn’t have happened.

The NCAA rule book states that a period is extended if a penalty is accepted for a live ball foul but “the period is not extended if the foul is by the team in possession and the statement of the penalty includes loss of down.” The sentence in quotes applies perfectly to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys had the ball and committed a foul (intentional grounding) that includes a loss of down.

Oops. This game will go down in the annals of officiating mistakes as one of the more memorable ones. Here’s what referee Tim O’Dey told the pool reporter after the game.

“There’s a rule that says that the game cannot end on an accepted live ball foul,” O’Dey, a MAC official, said. “That’s the rule. There’s an exception to the rule that says if enforcement of the foul involves a loss of down, then that brings the game to an end.

“So in that situation, we’ve had the opportunity to run it back through our hierarchy, which includes the national rules editor [Rogers Redding], and he confirmed that should have been a loss of down and the end of the game at that point, so that extension should not have happened.”

Oklahoma State and coach Mike Gundy won’t go undefeated. (Getty)
Oklahoma State and coach Mike Gundy won’t go undefeated. (Getty)

The outcome of the game won’t be changed. The Big 12, which provided the replay crew for the game, also admitted that it erred in not calling for a replay review to ensure the rule regarding untimed downs was applied correctly.

“The Mid-American Conference officiating crew from Saturday afternoon’s Central Michigan at Oklahoma State contest made an error on the final play of regulation,” Collegiate Officiating Consortium Coordinator of Football Officials Bill Corollo said in a statement. “The crew made a misapplication of the rule and should not have extended the contest with one final play. Despite the error, this will not change the outcome of the contest.”

Officials admitted that Miami should not have beaten Duke on a kickoff return with no time left in 2015 as a Miami player was down. The result of the game was not changed, but the officiating crew was suspended.

But this isn’t all the officials’ fault either. Oklahoma State was a 17.5-point favorite entering the game. The Cowboys had no business letting CMU hang around for as long as they did.

Rush threw for 361 yards and four touchdowns while Oklahoma State’s inability to have or sustain an effective running game played a big role. The Cowboys struggled with the run in 2015 but were an effective red zone team thanks to the running ability of backup QB JW Walsh, who had 13 rushing touchdowns.

Walsh is now graduated and OSU ran the ball just 16 times when you don’t count Rudolph’s seven carries (sacks count as rushing attempts) for -9 yards. Freshman RB Justice Hill was OSU’s leading rusher with 31 yards on five carries, though 17 came on one play. If OSU wants to again contend for the Big 12 title, Rudolph and WR James Washington can’t carry the offense themselves.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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