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SEC admits officiating mix-up forced Penn State to punt on third down

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The Southeastern Conference admitted its officials got it wrong against Penn State.

The Nittany Lions beat Auburn 28-20 Saturday night, but Penn State coach James Franklin was visibly upset earlier in the game when his team was forced to punt on third down.

With Penn State trailing 10-7 in the second quarter, Penn State punted to Auburn after the SEC officiating crew ruled it was fourth-and-11.

After the Nittany Lions were penalized for intentional grounding on first down — an automatic loss-of-down foul — quarterback Sean Clifford completed a 5-yard pass. But referee James Carter ruled the next play as fourth down and Penn State brought punter Jordan Stout onto the field.

Franklin said he tried to tell officials about the mix-up but could not get the call changed.

"I talked to all of (the officials), and they said, look, they all agreed on the call and so did the replay (official)," Franklin said, according to ESPN. "They all agreed. I kept bringing them over and saying, 'It's not accurate.' I don't know what else I can tell them, but they all concurred, all the officials, they got on the headset, they talked to each other, and they all agreed. They ran it by replay, and they all agreed as well. I don't know what else I can do or say."

Penn State head coach James Franklin talks with officials during the game against Auburn.
Penn State head coach James Franklin talks with officials during the game against Auburn.

The SEC issued a statement admitting the officials and the replay booth all mismanaged the situation:

"At 11:45 in the 2nd quarter, Penn State throws an incomplete pass that was judged to be Intentional Grounding. The crew’s enforcement of the penalty erroneously set the down to 3rd; the correct down should have been 2nd. The replay booth was consulted to confirm the down prior to the punt. The replay booth had the down as 4th down as well.

The error was discovered during the media timeout that followed the punt and by rule it could not be corrected at that time."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Penn State had to punt on 3rd down after SEC crew's officiating mix-up