What seemed like a minor play in the first quarter of the Ole Miss vs. Alabama game has turned into a heated debate in the SEC.
On a 3rd-and-10 with 13:43 to play in the first quarter, Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron hit wide receiver DeAndrew White on a crossing pattern over the middle. White then lunged across the 32-yard line for a first down.
Or did he?
The side judge initially marked the spot just past the 31-yard line, almost one full yard shy of the first-down marker. He then moved his foot towards the 32-yard line twice before looking back at the first-down marker and spotting the ball near the 32, giving the Tide a first down.
Charles Bloom, SEC Associate Commissioner of Media Relations, addressed the issue in a statement to MrSEC.com.
According to the statement, the spot of the ball was accurate, but the side judge used an "incorrect mechanic" by looking back at the first-down marker before properly spotting the ball.
I'm not going to buy into any elaborate conspiracy theories, but the look back at the first-down marker is the key here. That is what makes the situation look bad, and the SEC agrees with that assessment.
Spotting the football is an inexact science, which could explain why he moved his foot closer to the 32-yard line twice prior to looking back. That's not exactly uncommon considering officials typically see where the ball needs to be spotted before getting there.
But the "incorrect mechanic" is certainly what sent this controversy into overdrive. The side judge wasn't looking at the sticks when the receiver was ruled down, so why look back at them before spotting the football?
That question remains unanswered.
Whether it's an innocent mistake, the next great college football conspiracy or something in between, it's unlikely that the incident had a major impact on the final outcome of the game.
Personally, I buy the SEC's explanation, but would like to know why the side judge looked back at the sticks. However, I don't think it's an indication of some grand conspiracy or anything like that.
What do you think of the spot and the explanation?