One of the most difficult calls of the year couldn't have reared its ugly head at a worse time for the No. 17 Stanford Cardinal, or at a better time for the No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
At the culmination of a grueling, 20-13 overtime defeat on the road was a 4th-and-goal for Stanford's offense, which went to tough running back Stepfan Taylor.
After keeping Taylor out of the end zone for the first three downs inside the five, the Irish seemed to have absorbed him on the game's final play before they started sprinting toward the sideline in celebration.
But as Taylor's forward progress was halted, his second effort slowly pushed him closer to the goal line. As he came down, it seemed like he may have reached the ball far enough forward to break the plane before his elbow was down.
After chaos broke out on the field, officials cleared off the playing field, and the play went under further review. However, there was no conclusive evidence and the play stood as called—game over.
The major aspect in question is when the referees blew the whistle. If Taylor's forward progress was stopped enough for a whistle to blow, then that call would likely not be overturned.
Also, Taylor's elbow appeared to go down just prior to his reach over the goal line. If true, his forward progress and the blown whistle would be irrelevant, and the call would've ended in Notre Dame victory regardless.
Take a look for yourself at a still photo from B/R's own official Twitter feed.
Stepfan Taylor appeared to score on the replay but call on the field stands. Notre Dame beats Stanford 20-13 twitter.com/BleacherReport…— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 13, 2012
Despite carrying the ball 28 times for 102 yards against a scary Notre Dame defensive front, Taylor was halted on four straight attempts at the end of the game, getting only to the 1-yard line.
It's hard to say that Stanford was screwed over by the call, because the evidence isn't conclusive. But if the initial call had been a touchdown, it's hard to see a way that the referees would've overturned it.
Regardless, the players on the Fighting Irish defense were too quick to judge, as they burst out in celebration while the play was still in action. Heisman candidate linebacker Manti Te'o decided to run away in celebration instead of hitting Taylor and effectively ending his late reach toward the goal line.
One thing is certain: This call (or no-call) will be a hot topic for the rest of the year and may have impacted the national championship race.
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