A lot of fans believe that no referee is a good referee and today there was blatantly poor officiating across the board in the game between Virginia Tech and Clemson. The final score was 38-17 in Clemson’s favor. The aftermath of a score like that is fairly predictable–Clemson fans are happy and Hokie fans are mad–but I think I would be safe in assuming that both fan bases can agree on how poor the officials were in this one.
There were plenty of bad calls or no calls, but that happens in every game. What separates this game from most others was three of the worst calls I have seen in quite a while. The first occurred early in the third quarter when Virginia Tech was facing third-and-long. The Tigers had a good rush on and Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas broke a tackle, or I should say almost broke a tackle. A Clemson lineman had one of Thomas’s legs wrapped up when the quarterback threw to a wide open J.C. Coleman. Coleman would have run for a first down easily, but the referees blew the play dead. Why? Because a 6’6” 260 lb. quarterback had a defender’s arm on his leg.
The second occurred later in the third when Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins caught a pass and ran for a first down. The ball came out at the end of the play, but Watkins was ruled down on the field. Replays showed that the ball clearly came out before any part of Watkins’ body was on the field. The Hokies defense immediately jumped on the ball, so it should have been a turnover, right? Wrong, Frank Beamer challenged the ruling on the field, but after review the play call stood and the score at the time was 17-10 Clemson. The Tigers promptly scored a touchdown.
The final truly bad call occurred late in the fourth quarter. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was in the midst of a long run when VT corner Antone Exum stripped the ball. The ball was recovered in the end zone by a Clemson offensive lineman. Boyd was ruled down at the one yard line and after review the play stood as called, and Clemson had the ball at the 1-yard line. I’d call that a makeup call, but it actually hurt the Hokies. The call gave Clemson the ability to run down the clock and eventually score on fourth down.
The officials in the ACC have been criticized for years, but it is time for the conference to actually do something about it. I’m not saying that the referees handed Clemson the victory–after all, they won by 21 points–but I am saying that if these three plays were called correctly, it could have been a very different game. The ACC needs to either fine this crew or suspend them, because that performance was an embarrassment to the conference.