Tom Herman thought West Virginia's winning 2-point play could have been called back for taunting

Yahoo Sports

Toward the end of Texas coach Tom Herman’s press conference Saturday after UT’s loss to West Virginia, Herman was asked about a third quarter play when quarterback Sam Ehlinger lost his helmet.

It was a fourth-and-1 play from WVU’s 5-yard line where Ehlinger appeared to have lunged far enough for a first down. After a review, however, it was ruled that because Ehlinger lost his helmet before he reached the line to gain, the play was immediately blown dead, resulting in a turnover on downs.

While Herman explained his perspective on the ruling, he pivoted — completely unprompted — to an even more critical play in the game: Will Grier’s game-winning two-point conversion.

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After Texas took a 41-34 lead with 2:34 to play, Grier led West Virginia down the field for a score with 16 seconds remaining. Instead of playing for overtime, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen dialed up a two-point play for Grier, who ran in untouched on a quarterback draw.

Grier began high-stepping and holding the ball out in celebration a few yards before reaching the goal line.


Herman thought that could have been grounds for a penalty that took the two points off the board.

“I also thought that taunting before you cross the goal line meant that it negated a score, too. So I’ve got to brush up on my rules and get some questions answered,” Herman said. (You can watch his entire answer at the top of this post.)

Grier was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, but it seemed to be for doing the “Horns Down” signal toward the Texas crowd well after the play had ended. Earlier in the game, wideout David Sills was penalized for the same thing after a touchdown.

Texas head coach Tom Herman talks with the referee during the second half of an NCAA college football game against West Virginia, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Austin, Texas. West Virginia won 42-41. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Texas head coach Tom Herman talks with the referee during the second half of an NCAA college football game against West Virginia, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Austin, Texas. West Virginia won 42-41. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Herman might have a case, but that call would never be made

Technically, Herman (the same guy who mocked Missouri QB Drew Lock during last year’s Texas Bowl) is right if you believe what Grier did to be “unsportsmanlike” by NCAA standards.

One example of “specifically prohibited conduct” in the NCAA rule book is “an unopposed ball carrier obviously altering stride as he approaches the opponent’s goal line or diving into the end zone.” And because that would be a “live-ball foul,” the penalty would be enforced “15 yards from the succeeding spot.” If we want to really scrutinize the play, Grier probably did “obviously alter” his stride, but it wasn’t egregious enough for a flag to be thrown.

We’ve seen touchdowns taken off the board before because of that rule, including by Missouri’s Damarea Crockett for diving into the end zone and Iowa’s Akrum Wadley for high-stepping into the end zone. Both happened last season.

Here’s the example with Wadley, including the official’s “spot of the foul” explanation:


Could you imagine if a similar call was made in that situation in the Texas-WVU game? The ball would have been moved back 15 yards (likely to the 16 since Grier began celebrating at the 1-yard line) and WVU would have had to try an extra point in order to force overtime.

That would have been far, far more controversial than anything Herman said after the loss.

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