A timing breakdown at the conclusion of the Week 5 game between the Seattle Dragons and Houston Roughnecks raised some eyebrows on Saturday, ending the game seemingly two seconds too early. Following a kneel-down on fourth-and-23 by Houston at their own 26-yard line, the game clock inadvertently continued to run to expiration. Seattle was trailing by nine points at the time, which is a one-score deficit in the XFL due to the three-point conversion opportunity, and was unable to run one more play from inside Houston’s 30-yard line to try and tie the game. As a result, the XFL has acknowledged the error and has subsequently “reassigned” XFL officiating supervisor Wes Booker, an SEC official and participant in the NFL’s Officiating Development Program.
— XFL (@XFL2023) March 8, 2020
Setting the stage for the play, Houston faced a fourth-and-23 play from their own 26-yard line, while still holding a nine-point lead. After taking the snap with four seconds on the clock, quarterback P.J. Walker took a knee with two seconds remaining. At the conclusion of a fourth down play, as well as any play resulting in a change of possession, the clock should stop. In the case of this play, the clock continued to run, running off the final two seconds until double-zeros remained on the clock. The officiating crew then left the field as the ABC broadcast crew pondered why the game was being allowed to end as it did.
Officiating supervisor Wes Booker was then featured on the broadcast, explaining that “there should be two seconds left. We had determined that the game was over, and we went back and looked at it in replay, but the game was already over, so there was nothing we could do to get everybody corralled back.” XFL officiating supervisors are not authorized to intervene and correct game errors in a way that the SkyJudge of the Alliance of American Football was able to do last spring.
Under XFL rules, Seattle had a chance to tie the game with a three-point conversion, but this opportunity was not granted as the final two seconds on the clock inadvertently expired. The XFL uses two clock operators, one to control the game clock and the other to control the play clock. The clock operators are based locally, meaning that the pair of clock operators will always work in the same stadium.
In the XFL’s statement released on their website and on their social media pages, the league acknowledged the error and have “reassigned” Booker. At this time, we’re not sure what this reassignment entails. However, this consequence was handed down swiftly and surely, perhaps a little too swiftly and surely. While fans are supporting the XFL for their quick action and accountability, this raises the issue of job security for XFL officiating staff. The league’s statement made no mention of any punishment for any of the on-field officiating crew members.