Notre Dame lost to Florida State, 31-27, on a blown call in the final seconds in Tallahassee late Saturday night, a penalty that has far-reaching ramifications, which we’ll get to in a minute.
But first, let’s begin here: The refs blew it. I wrote as much Saturday night and having watched the replay dozens of times and scouring the college football rulebook, nothing has changed my mind about it.
One note, before the fun begins: ABC got the penalty wrong, at least according to what Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was told. According to Kelly, the offensive pass-interference was NOT on CJ Prosise (No. 20), who was circled by ABC in replays. Kelly says he was told the flag was on Will Fuller (top of the screen, No 7).
Surely you already have an opinion on the play, but try to ingest the following with an open mind.
Then watch the replay again below:
On the pivotal play, Notre Dame saw something at the line of scrimmage, and checked into a bunch formation. Take it away, Kelly:
C.J.’s job is to get into the end zone and turn around and be a big target. He was immediately grabbed at the line of scrimmage. He’s trying to get depth into the line of scrimmage, into the end zone so Corey can clear a path. And so as that contact was being made, it was seen, I guess — I don’t know who saw it as interference — but you’ve got two guys that are trying to fight for space. We saw it as such.
“He’s supposed to find space, sit down and be a target. Again, it’s a play that’s a pretty common play in NCAA football — where you’re setting a point, guy turns around and the ball is thrown. The ball was thrown quickly, C.J. didn’t even have a chance to turn around — which may have led to some of the objects that people were talking about on TV, that he was blocking — but he was simply trying to get his space in the end zone. And then of course now we’re hearing that it was actually called on Will Fuller. So it’s hard for me to really put it all together.”
So the guy everyone thought the flag was on had one job: Run a few yards, and turn around. He couldn’t, because he was grabbed from the 3-yard line all the way to the goal line. Here’s another angle:
So then the talk turns to Fuller, the best receiver on the Irish. Watching from both angles, it’s clear – he runs straight into the end zone, the corner back pedals, and at the :18 mark, you see the cornerback bring up his arms to jam Fuller from getting to his spot. The referee who threw the flag on Fuller is directly behind the cornerback, so he can’t see the jam. What he sees is Fuller running into the FSU defender. A split second after the contact, the pass is thrown.
And if none of that has you convinced, WSBT has the definitive video showing it was a bad call. Sorry, it’s not embeddable.
Kelly made a savvy point: Once Notre Dame changed the play, the FSU defensive backs looked confused as what to do. Check out No. 26 PJ Williams, who was supposed to be defending the pass-catcher. When the play starts, he’s quickly lost, and late reacting to get through the thicket of players. If you read his body language – he takes a step back where Fuller is going – it’s almost as if he thought FSU was switching on the play.
Fortunately for Notre Dame, despite the bad call, the Irish still control their own destiny. Run the table and they’ll very likely get into the 4-team playoff, even if Auburn or Alabama have two losses. Of course, winning at Navy (3-4), Arizona State (5-1) and USC (5-2) is far from a given.
FSU? Well, the Seminoles continue to be lucky, or charmed, or a team of destiny, whatever you want to call it. As long as Jameis Winston is on the field for the rest of the regular season, FSU should be double-digit favorites in the remainder of their games and cruise into the ACC Championship game, which should be a walkover.
Related: Florida State Escaped Notre Dame Upset Bid 31-27
Related: Notre Dame Got Screwed in Tallahassee by the Referees
Related: David Robinson Enjoying Cory Robinson Touchdowns Against Florida State
[Front image via Business Insider]