Sitting on a third-and-1 on the Arkansas 19-yard line with 20 seconds left, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix was set to spike the ball to set up a go-ahead field goal attempt. However, Nix didn't field the snap cleanly and spiked the ball awkwardly facing backwards. There was immediate confusion as to whether the play was live and Arkansas players began chasing after the ball as if it was a fumble while officials ruled the play dead.
The play went to review where officials determined that Nix's spike was an incomplete pass. The Tigers made a 39-yard field goal on the next play and went on to win.
Take a look for yourself. Nix's spike sure looks like a backwards pass.
The official ruling after review was an incomplete pass and Nix was flagged for intentional grounding. It was a spot foul and a loss of downs, but Auburn was still allowed to get its 39-yard field goal attempt off with 18 seconds left.
Except that it did not look like an incomplete pass. Nix did not field the snap cleanly to spike the ball, and when he did, he did so backwards. That should have been a backwards pass and a fumble. That's the explanation Arkansas coach Sam Pittman got after the game.
Sam Pittman on Arkansas' postgame radio show: “They just said it was a fumble, a backward pass, but they blew the whistle before we recovered the ball so they couldn’t review it, I guess. That's the explanation I got.”— Matt Jones (@MattJonesADG) October 10, 2020
The SEC later released a statement on the ruling. In essence, it agreed that Nix's spike was a backwards pass. However, because Arkansas didn't clearly recover the ball immediately before the whistles were blown, the Razorbacks didn't end up with the ball.
In real time, Arkansas recovered the fumble but only after the officials blew the whistles. There's an argument that the play should not have been blown dead at all if it was a backwards pass and fumble, but that's how it happened. Tough break. This was a bad call on every imaginable level, and Arkansas is going to feel robbed and that feeling is warranted.