Officials are punished after stealing game from OSU

Oklahoma State got robbed.

With an apparent 27-24 victory sealed, the referees managed to give Central Michigan one last play with no time left on the clock. They hit a combination hail Mary/hook-and-ladder play and won the game 30-27.

Oklahoma State had the ball with four seconds left and three-point lead. It was fourth down and Cowboy quarterback Mason Rudolph ran for a few seconds and threw the ball out of bounds.

“Just so everybody knows,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said, “I was the one that called the pass play.”

A referee called intentional grounding and gave the ball to CMU near the 50-yard-line with time expired. That’s when they hit a long pass. The receiver lateralled the ball to a trailing player who scored. But the officials broke the rules by giving the Central Michigan one last play.

“The NCAA playing rules do not allow extension of the period when the penalty includes loss of down, under Rule 3-2-3,” sadi Rogers Redding, secretary-rules editor for NCAA football. “Intentional grounding of a forward pass during a down in which time in the quarter expires is such a play, because loss of down is part of the penalty. Thus the quarter should not have been extended.”

It was such an egregious error that the Big 12 Conference and the Mid-American Conference are penalizing the officials for incorrectly handing the game over the Central Michigan. The MAC is suspending all eight officials who worked the game for two games. The Big 12 is suspending its instant replay crews for two games. “The crew missed an opportunity to advise the MAC officiating crew of the misapplication of the penalty giving CMU an untimed down that resulted in its game-winning touchdown,” Walt Anderson, Big 12 football coordinator of officials, said in a statement. “NCAA rules permit instant replay to correct egregious errors and it is unacceptable that it did not occur in this situation. Additionally, this replay crew will not be eligible for assignment to an end-of-season bowl game.”

MAC referee Tim O’Dey said after the game that Central Michigan was wrongly awarded an untimed down. “There’s a rule that says that the game cannot end on an accepted live ball foul,” said O’Dey. “That’s the rule. There’s an exception to the rule that says if enforcement of the foul involves a loss of down, then that brings the game to an end. So in that situation, we’ve had the opportunity to run it back through our hierarchy, which includes the national rules editor, and he confirmed that should have been a loss of down and the end of the game at that point, so that extension should not have happened.”

But Central Michigan still gets the win and Oklahoma State fell out of the Top 25. The loss almost destroys any chance the Cowboys could make the college football playoff, although they could still win the Big 12 championship.

“We contacted everyone that could help us understand the situation and do something to change the outcome,” said Oklahoma State Athletic Director Mike Holder said. “We were told there was nothing that could be done about the officials error at the end of the game and the result is final. In my mind, it is incomprehensible that a mistake made after time had expired cannot be corrected. The final score shows that Oklahoma State lost the game but that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with it.”

Gundy had called the same play he saw in a game against Florida State in 2014 when quarterback Jameis Winston threw the ball through the endzone on the last play of the game for a narrow victory. “If it would have come across my mind that they were going to consider a tackle box — which by rule they were correct, I’m guessing — then we would have just had to take two steps (to the side) and throw,” Gundy said. “It was just kind of too easy to do.”

Rudolph was just doing what his coach told him to do.

“I love Coach Gundy,” Rudolph said. “I’ve loved him since the day I signed here. I’ll do anything for him. … That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s a standup dude. He’s gonna accept responsibility for some things that don’t go our way. But I think it was more on me and the offense’s part for kind of sputtering in the first half and even the second half, and putting our defense in a bad situation. I deserve as much blame, and this offense, as anyone else.”

The Oklahoma State coaches, players, students and fans are understandably upset at the turn of events.

“Everybody is going to be really mad at me for a long time,” Gundy said, “and I’m going to be mad at myself for a long time because I should have done a better job of preparing and thinking that through.”

OSU hosts Pittsburgh Saturday for their third home game in a row. After a 16-year, Pitt and Penn State renewed their in-state rivalry last Saturday with Pitt winning 42-39.