Dan Wolken: ‘Officials Just Guess In That Situation’

Scott Ferrall, like many, watched Saturday night’s showdown between Florida State and Notre Dame – it was the highest-rated game of the season – and he felt, like many, that the call that decided the game was atrocious.

Notre Dame had the potential game-winning touchdown pass called back for offensive pass interference – a penalty that Ferrall thought was a good old-fashioned case of home-cooking. If it was FSU that had just scored the game-winning touchdown, Ferrall said, the flag would have stayed in the official’s pocket.

Instead, the official butchered the ending of a great game, which is a misfortune.

“Well, it was,” USA Today college football writer Dan Wolken said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I don’t know whether it would be called if it wasn’t in Tallahassee or not. What I do know is if it wasn’t called a penalty, I don’t think it would have been all that controversial. I don’t think you would have had an uproar of people who watched the game and said, ‘Oh, my God, how did they not call that penalty?’ It’s one of those plays – that rub play – there’s a fine line. Look, they call it the way they call it. I understand the rule. It’s a very fine line being blocking and trying to run that pick play.

“I think the issue I have with it (is) the defensive backs in that situation, they go up to jam the receivers, and No. 26 for Florida State – to be honest – had no clue what he was doing. And so I understand what Brian Kelly was talking about (Sunday) when he said that Florida State blew the coverage on that play and got rewarded. Basically, the reason that all happened the way it did is because Ronald Darby covered the wrong guy, and as the Notre Dame receiver was trying to run the slant, it sort of looks like a block. I don’t know. Is it a block? Is it trying to run a route and getting cut off? It’s such a fine point in football that I think the officials honestly just guess in that situation.”

Notre Dame had one last chance to win the game, but Everett Golson’s desperation pass was picked off in the end zone. Florida State won, 31-27.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Wolken said. “There’s no doubt that Notre Dame called the right play for the defense that Florida State was trying to run. Everything worked as it was intended to work. But like I said, it’s a judgment call. I think the reason they called it is because Jimbo Fisher and Florida State went to the officials. They thought Notre Dame scored a touchdown in the first half on that kind of pick play, so officials were looking for it. I think that’s probably the genesis of it more than anything. They were looking for that kind of play from the start. Otherwise, I don’t know if they would have called it.

“I’m not a referee,” Wolken continued. “I’m not an expert on those type of things, but it is what it is. It’s not going to change, and you kind of got to move on.”

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