Two days later, still no clarity on ending of Wisconsin-Arizona State

Todd Graham and the Sun Devils escape with a controversial win over Wisconsin. (USATSI)
Todd Graham and the Sun Devils escape with a controversial win over Wisconsin. (USATSI)

Here it is Tuesday night and we still don't know exactly what happened Saturday in Tempe, Ariz. Well, beyond the obvious at Arizona State.

Oh, we know that Pac-12 officials working the Wisconsin-Arizona State game were reprimanded for some kind of screw up at the end. But we don't know exactly why. Falling short of the conference's "high standard" – commissioner Larry Scott’s words – doesn't quite get it.

The Pac-12 released a video with supervisor of officials Tony Corrente that doesn't really add much. Wisconsin's Gary Andersen called the situation a "life lesson" Monday and moved on. The Pac-12 penalized the officiating crew but for how long? For what?  The Pac-12 at least owes us that. Will the crew be seen alive again?

The league isn't saying. Corrente said in the interview that will air Wednesday on the Pac-12 Network, "I felt we really did lack in our sense of urgency. We just didn't react to it properly."

Multiple calls to national supervisor of officials Rogers Redding were not returned. But here is one informed insider's view of what occurred:

(The person did not want to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the situation.)

First, here’s the replay of the end with Arizona State leading 32-30.

With 18 seconds left on first down from the Arizona State 18, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave takes the snap from the right hash, runs left and centers the ball at the 20. In the process, he at least makes a kneeling motion. But it doesn't matter whether Stave actually knelt with the ball with 15 seconds remaining. There is a provision in the rules that the ball is automatically down if a quarterback "assimilates" a kneeling motion. So throw that one out. The ball was "down."

At that point the officials blew the play dead, once again with 15 seconds left. They got that right. They at least thought the ball was down. But doesn't mean the clock should have been stopped. It shouldn't be stopped. The reason a quarterback usually kneels is the so-called "victory formation" so that the clock does run out.

At that point, one Arizona State defender touches the ball as if to down it. Three other Sun Devils then pounce on the ball with 12 seconds left.

As the clock continues to tick down, the referee identified on the game's flip card as Jack Folliard, then gestures with his right hand as if to indicate the ball is down. With Arizona State players still milling around the ball, the umpire – identified as Douglas Wilson – kind of clears the area then holds up his right hand to stop Wisconsin from approaching the ball. Sun Devil cornerback Osahon Irabor doesn't cross back over the line of scrimmage to his side of the ball until two seconds are remaining.

The ball doesn't seem to be put in play by Wilson until one second is left. Wisconsin doesn’t snap the ball until the clock runs out and confusion ensues.

Nothing in the sequence was reviewable, according to Fox Sports analyst Mike Pereira, a former NFL vice president of officiating.

According to the insider, the odd way that Stave laid the ball down probably confused the officials. That still doesn't absolve them. Folliard, a Portland, Ore., lawyer, has been a Pac-12 official since 1982 and a referee since 2002.

Wilson, the umpire responsible for spotting the ball, was part of a crew that had an official suspended for one game in 2009. The official, never identified, was suspended for missing an obvious play in which a USC defender ripped the helmet off Oregon State's James Rodgers.

In the Pac-12 video, Corrente does mention "two officials" from Saturday but doesn't identify them.

The other officials listed on the field Saturday: head linesman Ryan Dickson, line judge Steven Kovac, side judge Aaron Santi, field judge Kevin Kieser and back judge Steven Steichen.

This is at least the biggest Pac-12 officiating screw-up since the epic Oklahoma-Oregon mess in 2006. The replay official in that game, Gordon Riese, was harassed afteward. He had worked the 1982 Stanford-Cal game as well. 

At this point, we all deserve more transparency from the Pac-12. All I know is if this had been the SEC, villagers would have been in the streets with torches and pitch forks. It would have been the lead story on the SEC Network – and the SEC Network doesn’t launch for another 11 months.

As of now, everyone seems to be OK with a decision that, to me, harkens back to the Fifth Down Game in 1990. That collective mind freeze allowed Colorado to win a national championship.

At stake this time – at least – is a possible BCS berth. Think of Wisconsin if it finishes 10-2 with its only Big Ten loss to Ohio State. The difference between 11-1 and 10-2 is huge for consideration of a BCS at-large berth.

For Arizona State, ranked for the first time since 2011, this could catapult the Sun Devils to their first major bowl since the 1997 Rose Bowl. Arizona State coach Todd Graham said Tuesday he did not think the win was "tainted."

"They still have to make a field goal [to win the game]," Graham said. "I think they had two field goal kickers who were struggling. That's why they were trying to get it closer. I don't think they [Wisconsin] mismanaged anything. I think they did it the way they should.

"I thought our guys were very deserving to win the game. ... I don’t think we stole anything."

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories