It's rare when we even notice which conference's refs are working bowl games. So the Big Ten crews at the Music City and Pinstripe Bowls must have been doing something right. Or wrong. Or both.
First, UNC saves its own bacon through ineptitude. From the moment Shaun Draughn was tackled at the 18, the Tar Heels had 13 full seconds to either spike the ball or kick a field goal. They tried to do both at the same time. In the confusion of which personnel had to get on and off the field, the ball was spiked with a second left, despite five extra players still jogging off.
Here's where we point out that the refs got the call absolutely correct. There are no extenuating circumstances for calling that penalty. Only that once it's snapped, it's a five yard penalty. The ball was downed with a second left, and the play was dead.
It pains us, physically pains us to agree with Lou Holtz on anything. But his suggestion, that in the last two minutes of a game time should be run off the clock in circumstances like this, is spot-on. Don't be shocked if the NCAA addresses this in the offseason, but UNC's bizarre survival was a failure of the rulebook, not the officiating.
You can't say the same for Kansas State being penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct on their final touchdown, before a crucial two-point conversion attempt. We can debate the merits of the existence of an excessive penalty celebration all day. (And you'd be wrong all day if you were in favor of it. Only people who hate football are in favor of it.) But there's no debating that this shouldn't qualify:
The rule deals with a player "bringing attention to himself." I guess that's the case, in the sense that subconsciously you said to yourself, "oh look at that, that guy saluted. I can't wait for overtime in this awesome game."
Alas. Adrian Hilburn was flagged, the two-point conversion went off from the 18, and predictable failed. Game over.
Even without context, it's an egregious call. But reader Tom puts it in the context of K-State's strong ties to the military, and points us to this press release:
As part of these ties, university athletes have trained with troops from Fort Riley during their offseasons. I believe Frank Martin even put the basketball team through a modified basic training program one year to toughen them up. I'm not sure if the football team worked with them this summer (although the player that caught the touchdown was a senior, so the ties could have been established several years ago), and there's no way of knowing who the player was saluting at the time.
Tom also sarcastically adds that "the New York Bowl ended up getting its New York winners. Shocking." But this was ineptitude, not bias. Syracuse is 250 miles away from Yankee Stadium. This isn't an Orange town. In basketball, the city pulls for St. John's. In football, the city doesn't care about college football.