Canzano: Pac-12 goes silent (when it should act) on officiating blunder
Also, nine other things you need to know.
I know. I know. All college football conferences have officiating gaffes. Human error happens. Most of us understand nobody is going to be perfect. It’s an unforgiving profession and the crews on the field are just trying to get the calls right.
That said — what happened on Saturday just before halftime of the USC-Arizona game shouldn’t have occurred in a major college football game. And the Pac-12 shouldn’t have been silent about it afterward.
USC had the ball and was driving. The Trojans completed a 34-yard pass deep in Arizona territory, then scrambled to line up with the clock temporarily stopped for a first down. The Umpire struggled to spot the ball and made the USC offensive line move. There was confusion. While that was going on, the clock started ticking. The final five seconds of the half ran off.
Watch the circus yourself:
After a first down, the offense is supposed to have a reasonable opportunity to snap the ball before the game clock is wound. Five seconds should have been plenty of time for USC quarterback, Caleb Williams, to take a snap.
Amid the confusion, Arizona’s players ran off the field and headed to the locker room. Referee Michael Mothershed — one of the Pac-12’s best officials — should have called the teams back, re-spotted the ball, and put a few seconds back on the clock. Instead, he waved off the first half and announced “That’s the end of the half.”
USC coach Lincoln Riley fumed on the field. After the game, Riley told reporters: “They admitted that they messed it up. My question was, ‘If you messed it up, why wasn’t it, stop play and review it?’ The explanation given to me at the beginning of the third quarter was that they obviously didn’t handle it properly. Which, I mean, anybody knows that watching.”
The Pac-12 has a “football officiating communications protocol” that requires it to make a statement and acknowledge an officiating error. It did not issue a statement on Sunday, however. I was told by a conference spokesperson that the gaffe in the USC-Arizona game didn’t meet the criteria:
Game-ending call or no-call impacting the result of the game;
Call involving a significant error in officiating mechanics;
Call involving an error in rules interpretation; or
Other extraordinary circumstances
There are some talented officials who work in the conference, but the system is broken. It’s not fair to the players, fans and coaches. Same goes for the good officials, doing their best. It’s not fair to them, either.
There are three teams on the field: Home, Visitor and Referees. When we see broken communication, confusion and poor outcomes with the two football teams, we go nuts, and call upon the coaching staff to correct it.
I’ve said for a while that the Pac-12 needs an overhaul of its officiating system. It’s a simple fix in the right hands: Hire a qualified supervisor of officials, create a consortium with the Big Sky Conference, and get to work fostering better training and good synergy with that third team on the field.
Don’t pay for a study.
Don’t hire a consultant.
Just fix it.
Some other stuff…
• BO KNOWS: Oregon quarterback Bo Nix accounted for six touchdowns on Saturday in the Ducks 42-24 win over Cal. I talked with UO offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham after the game, who raved about Nix’s decision making.
I asked Dillingham how much autonomy he gives Nix. He told me his QB has full authority to change plays.
“Most of the time, I like what he does,” Dillingham said. “But even when I don’t, I’m OK with it. I’m giving that freedom.”
Nix was miserable at Auburn. He’s transferred and found joy in Eugene. Also, he has an offensive line that is making things very easy for him. On Saturday, I wrote a column about how difficult Nix is making it for Heisman voters to ignore him.
I know. I hold a Heisman vote.
• ASU COACHING SEARCH: It’s no secret that Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham is lighting up Pac-12 defenses right now. His offense is averaging 42 points a game. I can tell you ASU is paying attention, too. I’ve had a couple of soft inquiries from people in Tempe who want to know if the 32-year old coordinator is ready for a step up.
As in, “Is Dilly mature enough to be a head coach?”
Oregon’s Dan Lanning, 36, is the youngest head coach in major college football. I’m sure he’s going to be better with some seasoning, but the Ducks (7-1) appear happy to have him. Sean McVay was just shy of 31 when the Rams hired him. He won a Super Bowl last season.
Dillingham is an Arizona State graduate. At age 21, he called the plays at powerhouse Chaparral High in Scottsdale, where they won three straight state championships. At 27, he was the offensive coordinator at Memphis. A year later, he called the plays at Auburn. At 29, he became the offensive coordinator at Florida State.
Is Dillingham too young to be a head coach?
I’ll rephrase: Will he be too interesting for ASU to pass up?
• TOP 25: Oregon State finally made the Top 25 this week, checking in at No. 24. The Beavers (6-2) have flirted with being ranked a few times. It’s nice to see the Beavers recognized nationally, but now they need to stick.
The Pac-12 now has five ranked teams, including No. 8 Oregon, No. 9 USC, No. 10 UCLA and No. 12 Utah. Oregon State plays at Washington on Friday (7:30 p.m., ESPN2). It’s a huge game for the Beavers, who are a 4.5-point road underdog. Also, I think it’s going to be the best Pac-12 game of the week.
• PLAYOFF NEWS: The first College Football Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday at 4 p.m. I don’t know about you, but I’m a little weary with the talking heads on television telling us that they can’t unsee Oregon’s 49-3 loss to Georgia in Week 1.
The Ducks lost badly. They were terrible. Georgia looked terrific. The committee has long told us that it values strength of schedule and rewards conference champions. It will give us a big clue on Tuesday whether it’s willing to excuse the margin of defeat in a Week 1 game.
Oregon has a couple of opportunities left on the regular-season schedule. The Ducks have a home date vs. Utah (Nov. 19) and play at Oregon State (Nov. 26).
• BATTLE OF LA: Who is better… UCLA or USC? We’ll find out Nov. 19 when they meet on the field at the Rose Bowl. I think the Bruins have a more balanced team and the home field, but USC’s offense is spectacular.
Who do you like to win that game?
I lean USC, for now, but reserve the right to change my mind.
• UPRISING: I don’t think I gave Utah enough credit for its road victory at Washington State last Friday in Pullman. The Utes were without their best player (Cam Rising) and found a way to win.
Utah hosts Arizona on Saturday.
• WASHINGTON STATE: Offensive coordinator Eric Morris is drawing ire from Cougars fans who aren’t happy with the horizontal passing attack. Quarterback Cam Ward accounted for 250 of the team’s 264 yards of offense in Friday’s 21-17 loss to Utah.
The Cougars managed only seven points through the first three quarters against Utah. I’d like to see Ward throw the ball down the field more. Also, WSU needs to commit to running the ball. They’re making it easy on opposing defenses right now. Washington State plays at Stanford next Saturday. A good place for an offensive resurgence? Or continued frustration?
• QB CONTROVERSY: Cal hasn’t been consistent on offense this season. But did the Bears find something late in their loss to Oregon on Saturday? Redshirt freshman Kai Millner came into the game in the fourth quarter. He was 8 of 11 passing for 114 yards and two TDs.
After the game, Cal coach Justin Wilcox told reporters that Jack Plummer is still his starter. I know. Millner’s success came in the fourth quarter of a blowout game, where Oregon has let up this season. But Millner looked very good.
• FIST BUMP: I know this isn’t a Pac-12 note, but can we give the Portland Thorns a fist bump today? The NWSL franchise won the league championship on Saturday, beating Kansas City 2-0.
The title doesn’t erase bad feelings surrounding the misdeeds of the front office or erase the extreme disappointment that fans have with ownership. But for those reasons, their championship run felt even more meaningful. The Thorns overcame far more than a bunch of other soccer teams this season, didn’t they? They’re hosting a championship rally on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Providence Park.
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