The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Two Timeouts

Posted by disappointmentzone on 11 November 2007

Illinois played a nearly flawless game, only committed one penalty, held the ball for over 13 minutes in the fourth quarter, rushed for over 200 yards, and blah blah blah. Illinois won. There’s nothing anyone can take away from them. They played better than OSU. Good for them.

Two gripes.

First, what is the point of having replay in college football if a play that resulted in a player fumbling the ball to the other team isn’t reviewed?

The Illinois RB breaks off an 80 yard run, gets knocked down, and apparently fumbles the ball into the endzone from the three yard line. None of the refs are in a position to make a definitive call on the play. The only people who are in position to make the call are the guys in the replay booth. The play should be reviewed.

It’s not as though Illinois could rush up to the line and snap the ball. Both teams had to jog down the field. The refs had to jog down the field. The chains had to be moved. Players had to be substituted. Illinois doesn’t rush the snap. The play clock ticks down towards zero. Still, no sign that the play is being reviewed despite the ample time to review the play.

In fact, there was so much time to review the play that ABC replayed the entire play before the next snap. You know what the ABC replay showed? The RB coughing the ball up as he was fell — a clear fumble.

The replay official should have buzzed down to the field to stop play, but why wasn’t there an assistant coach in Tressel’s ear yelling at him to call timeout so that the replay official would be compelled to review the play? The coaches cannot call for a replay in college football, but they certainly can do all in their powers to get a play reviewed. When your opponent breaks an 80 yard run that sets them up at your three yard line and the replay shows that the guy fumbled the ball — that’s a good time to do everything in your power to get the play reviewed. Calling a timeout is all Tressel had in his arsenal. He needed to call timeout.

Speaking of timeouts, the second gripe is Tressel calling timeout in the fourth quarter when Illinois had fourth and inches. Ron Zook was panicking and rather than risk botching a hastily called fourth down play he sent out his punt team. OSU was going to get the ball back…and then Tressel called a timeout. Was there any doubt that Illinois was going to go for it after gaining an additional minute to think things over? Zook is not a great coach but give him the benefit of another minute and he’ll arrive at the obvious, correct decision. OSU couldn’t stop Williams, the defense was tired from being on the field for basically the entire fourth quarter, Illinois had all the momentum, and a knock-out blow rested on gaining about two inches. Of course Illinois goes for it. Punting the ball was the wrong call. When Tressel called timeout he gave Illinois the opportunity to make the right call.

There is no good argument for calling timeout right there. When Illinois was set to punt all OSU should have cared about was getting the ball back. If there is no one back to return it — so what? If they had no good punt rush — so what? Better to drive 95 yards than risk never getting the ball back. As it turns out OSU never did get the ball back.

Who would have thought the Jim Tressel would be out-coached by Ron Zook? (1)

fn 1: Don’t get me started on the play calling. Inexcusably sub par.

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3 Responses to “Two Timeouts”

  1. RockKing said

    I know in the NFL a fumble can still be reviewed even if the guy was ruled down on the field, but is this a reviewable play in college? My understanding was that it’s not, and I figured that’s why the play wasn’t reviewed.

  2. That’s a good point. For some reason I was thinking that the down by contact rule was NFL only. You’re probably right that it’s the rule in college too.

    The refs blew that call and depending on the rule it was only a minor tactical error from Tressel — it’s not his job to police the refs.

  3. RockKing said

    Yeah, there’s no doubt the call was completely blown by the refs. Frankly, they need to do a better job of getting the refs to err on the side of caution when it comes to calling a running down. Why not call it a fumble every time, this way it will always be reviewable and we can make sure the play is called correctly. As it turned out, those 7 points were huge last night, and while I won’t say the refs cost us the game by themselves, I will say that they played a major part in blowing that call. Just horrible officiating.

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