The defining play came with 5:36 left in the fourth quarter when Tigers receiver Calvin Austin III returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown to put his team up 28-17. However, the punt return should never have counted. Two Mississippi State players touched the ball before Austin picked it up and took it to the house, but a ruling on the field from the back judge should have blown the play dead.
In response, the SEC issued a statement on Saturday night explaining what should have happened on the biggest play of the game.
"At 5:58 in the fourth quarter of the Mississippi State at Memphis game, Mississippi State punts the ball down field where the loose ball touches multiple kicking team players before a receiving team player picks up the ball and returns it for a touchdown," the statement read. "The kicked ball remained live by rule since it was not possessed by a player nor did it rest in bounds with no player attempting to secure it. On the play, the back judge gave a single 'stop the clock' signal immediately after the receiving team possessed the ball. The inadvertent signal aspect of the play is reviewable and replay should have stopped the game to review for a potential inadvertent signal. The subsequent review would have placed the ball at the spot where the signal was made."
Here's a replay of the game-changing play that never should have been.
To make matters worse, Memphis committed a penalty on the play that wasn't called. "On the same play, two Memphis players were wearing No. 4, which is a violation and should have resulted in a five-yard penalty on Memphis," the statement read.