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Central Michigan wins on Hail Mary-lateral play that officials should not have allowed


Controversy arose on Saturday as Central Michigan had one last chance to defeat Oklahoma State. Unfortunately, it was one chance too many allowed under the rules.

On fourth down, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph threw a pass out of bounds as time expired, and the officials ruled intentional grounding and that there would be an untimed down. The loss of down from the grounding penalty gave Central Michigan possession of the ball, and they scored on the ensuing play and won the game.

The issue with this series of plays is that an intentional grounding penalty carries with it a loss of down. Although under NCAA rules a period generally can’t end on an accepted penalty, Rule 3-2-3-a-1 states the following:

The period is  not extended if the foul is by the team in possession and the statement of the penalty includes a loss of down.

Even though it was fourth down and Central Michigan would take over possession with  a turnover on downs, that is not relevant because fouls that occur before a change in possession are enforced before a new series can be awarded. When all of this is taken into account, the game should have ended with the intentional grounding call before Central Michigan had the opportunity to throw their Hail Mary.

After the game, referee Tim O’Dey from the Mid-American Conference spoke to a pool reporter and acknowledged a mistake had been made.

Many times when there is a disputed finish to a game, there are calls to have the decision overturned. This game is no different. However, once the game is declared final there is no way to change the outcome. The Big 12 coordinator of officials, NFL referee Walt Anderson, has already issued a statement on the matter.

The supervisor of officials in the Mid-America Conference is former NFL referee Bill Carollo. He issued a statement as well acknowledging the error.

It should be noted, as Anderson alluded to, that in the ever-expanding role of instant replay the crew in the review booth could have called down to the field and helped to rectify the situation, but once the game is over the score is final.

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Patrick Weber
Patrick Weber is a four sport official working at the high school and college levels in football, baseball, basketball and soccer. He currently resides near Chicago, Illinois.

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5 thoughts on “Central Michigan wins on Hail Mary-lateral play that officials should not have allowed

  1. Maybe the reason for the exception to the rule 3 , section 2 ,article 3,a.1 ,happened many years ago in a game Ole Miss vs Mississippi State ?.

  2. It is a shame this happened for the losing team and the officials who made the mistake. Just wondering why replay did not step up and bail them out. It’s there as a safety net and should be used to avoid egregious errors like this one which was costly to all involved. A real shame.

    The rule has a flaw which allows the team which does a ‘bad thing’ to benefit by doing so, one of the few times you will see it happen in the rulebook. Most always, the team which fouls suffers a penalty for fouling, not in this case, only the officials.

  3. Hey Brendan, got it, but it is an exception to the rule which rarely comes into play and caught the crew and cost them a lot of pain and embarrassment I’m sure.

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