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BYU vs. Washington: Unfortunately, nobody wins

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BYU vs. Washington: Unfortunately, nobody wins
When a football game ends, the only thing that matters is the final score.
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It doesn’t matter if you gained more total yards than your opponent if you don’t score more points.
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Nothing matters, unless you score more points.
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Today, BYU scored more points than Washington. It may have just been one, but it was more. So nothing else should matter.
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Well, maybe things aren’t so clear-cut after all.
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Before I get into the meat of this rant, I want to just say that Jake Locker and the Washington Huskies are not NEARLY as bad as people think they are. And if they play like they did today against every team they run up against this year, they WILL be a bowl team.
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Did Washington make a lot of mistakes today? Darn right they did. Locker horribly overthrew Darin Harris on the Huskies’ first drive on what would have EASILY been a touchdown. Then, on the final scoring drive, Locker overthrew D’Andre Goodwin and Jermaine Kearse on what would have been huge gains. The Goodwin overthrow would have been an easy score as well. Also on that final drive, Goodwin dropped a sure first-down catch.
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Nevertheless, the Huskies showed today that while they are young, they are EXTREMELY talented. Goodwin did an amazing job of hauling in a 20-yard sideline reception from Locker on the game’s final drive. Freshman tight end Kavario Middleton also had some crucial receptions. Starting tailback Chris Polk struggled in the first half, but David Freeman, also a freshman, had a very respectable second half. Unlike Polk, Freeman blasted into the offensive line and churned out some impressive yards.
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Now for the rant.
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Today’s matchup between BYU and Washington was interesting on so many levels that it’s impossible to list them all. BYU was out to prove it could defeat a BCS school on the road. Washington was out to prove last week at Oregon was a fluke and it was better than that.
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If BYU could win, maybe people would stop making fun of the Cougars for playing in the Mountain West. Maybe people would start to recognize them as a legitimate BCS Bowl possibility.
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If Washington could win, maybe coach Tyrone Willingham would live another week. Maybe people wouldn’t laugh at Washington’s inexperienced roster and joke about how horrible they are.
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With BYU winning, you’d think the former would apply. Once again, maybe things aren’t so clear-cut.
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In case all you saw was the final score, let me inform you just exactly HOW BYU managed to pull off the victory. Leading 28-21, Washington had third-and-goal on the Cougar 2. Just 7 seconds remained on the clock. The Huskies still had a timeout, but you knew that they were treading on thin ice. They essentially needed a touchdown on the next play. Locker took the snap and bolted for the end zone – and made it. After scoring, Locker jumped into the arms of his teammates and it appeared the game was heading to overtime. Except for one problem. There was a flag on the play. The referee called Locker for excessive celebration because he flipped the ball over his shoulder before celebrating with his teammates.
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Larry Farina, who called the penalty, cited Rule 9, Section 2, Article 1 of the rule book for his reasoning. The rule states that excessive celebration is called when the touchdown scorer “throws the ball high into the air.” Farina said this is not a judgment call, but a required one.
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Consequently, the extra-point attempt was backed up 15 yards, and was blocked, giving BYU the one-point win.
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Now, BYU fans are going to say, “Well, we still had to block the extra point.” I don’t want to hear it. If you don’t think the mindset going into a 35-yard extra point is any different than the standard 20-yarder, you probably have not watched very much football. First of all, think about the trajectory needed. The longer the kick, the lower the trajectory has to be, and the easier it is to block. The shorter the kick, the higher the trajectory can be, and the more difficult it is to block. This is pure and simple physics. There’s nothing debatable about it. Secondly, let’s talk about the mindset of the defense. If you don’t think the defense feels more confident blocking a kick from 35 yards than it would from 20, once again, you probably haven’t watched a lot of football. I haven’t even mentioned the additional pressure felt by the kicker, who already is under enormous stress trying to tie the game, but now has to worry about kicking from a longer distance. Make no mistake about it, the attempt was not a gimme. Furthermore, if there truly is no difference between a 20-yard PAT attempt and a 35-yarder, why would the penalty be enforced on the extra point instead of on the ensuing kickoff? Obviously, the officials see it as being tougher, or else they wouldn’t call it. I've even heard speculation that Washington was prepared to go for the 2-point conversion to win the game. Now are you going to tell me the penalty doesn't affect the game?
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BYU fans are also going to say, “Well, Locker DID celebrate. Even if we may not agree on how excessive, he did deserve the call.” That’s basically what BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said afterward when he said, “The rules are the rules.” Unfortunately, no matter what Farina says, the call for excessive celebration is a judgment call. Just look at the rule. It says if you throw the ball “high into the air” it’s excessive. So what constitutes “high?” Is simply throwing the ball into the air considered “high?” Or does it have to go a certain amount of feet into the air? Sounds pretty subjective and DEFINITELY judgment-like to me. For crying out loud, just the fact that the rule has the term 'excessive' in it makes it a judgement call. What's 'excessive' and what's not?
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The college gameday crew spoke with one of the NCAA directors of officiating and asked point-blank if it was excessive. After beating around the bush, the director replied, "Obviously the referee who made the call thought it was." He continued with that answer after continuing to be pressed. However, he did admit that based upon the situation surrounding the play, there can be latitude given to the player. Once again, how is this not judgment based? Lou Holtz and Mark May both ripped into the rule, and supported Locker. Neither one of them could understand how what Locker did could possibly be construed as "excessive" considering the moment of the play. Holtz said it wasn't like Locker took the ball and chucked it in the air. He simply flipped it in the air over his shoulder as quickly as he could so that he could start celebrating with his teammates. May said that players should not be forced to act like drones, which is what this rule essentially does. And jsut a little FYI, I have never seen Holtz and May agree. That should mean something here.
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Something else to consider is that let’s say that the penalty had not been called. Does anyone think that Mendenhall or any member of the BYU team would have complained? Do you think any of them really looked at what Locker did and thought, “Man, that’s pretty excessive to me.” If you do, you’re dumb. Plain and simple, a complete retard. I thought that excessive celebration penalties were implemented to prevent teams from showing other teams up. But if nobody feels like they were showed up, is it really a penalty? Just a simple question.
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I’m not going to take anything away from BYU. To be honest, I don’t think the Huskies would have won anyway. Washington proved all afternoon they couldn’t stop BYU. I think BYU had just one punt the entire afternoon. The only reason BYU drives were stopped were because of turnovers (an interception at the end of the first half and Harvey Unga’s goal-line fumble). I have little doubt that had the game gone into overtime, BYU would have continued scoring touchdowns. It would have only been a matter of time before Washington failed.
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But unfortunately, in a game like this, nobody truly wins. Washington obviously loses because they’re now 0-2 instead of 1-1. But BYU doesn’t really win either. Think about it this way. What is the national media’s perspective of BYU right now? I’ll give you a hint. Kirk Herbstriet is in the majority. The national media views BYU as nothing more than a respectable team from a less-than-respectable conference. Much like Hawaii last year, if even that. In order for BYU to gain the respect it wants, the Cougars have to not only win, but do so in a way that convinces people they are legitimate. Of course, there are those BYU haters out there who will continue to hate no matter what they see. But I think the majority of people (even Herbie) would agree if BYU could win, and win impressively, respect should be deserved. Winning because the referee calls the opposing team’s quarterback for excessive celebration, when it’s almost obvious there was nothing excessive about it, does not inspire respect. Sure, people are going to look at BYU and say, “Wow, that offense is good.” But they’re also going to say, “This is the best the Mountain West has to offer and they squeak by the worst team in the Pac 10 by a single point … and the referees influenced the game.” Especially if Oklahoma trounces Washington next week, which I fully expect to happen. I can see it now. Oklahoma beats Washington by 20. BYU beats Washington by 1. BYU may not be as good after all. So tell me, does BYU REALLY win?
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Fortunately for the Cougars, they still have next week against UCLA to prove themselves. If BYU goes out and dominates UCLA next week, people will really start to turn heads. But isn’t it sad that BYU has to wait another week? Isn’t it sad that simply winning at Washington today won’t be enough?
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What’s really sad is how today’s outcome adversely affects Washington. This is a program that had 24 true or redshirt freshman in last week’s game against Oregon. Today, they had at least two running backs, a starting tight end, and one of their starting wide receivers, all of whom were freshman. Their quarterback, Locker, is just a sophomore. Because of today’s loss, the Huskies will likely start 0-3. They will head into the meat of their Pac 10 schedule at 0-3, when they could have started 1-2. If you don't see how that negatively influences Willingham's job, you're crazy, and that's another important point. What the officials did today wasn't just help decide the outcome of a game, they quite possibly got Willingham fired. What happens if the Huskies finish 5-7 this year and don't get to a bowl game? Then, because they don't get to a bowl game, Willingham gets fired. Then everyone thinks back to this BYU game and realizes, "Wow, that official got Willingham fired." Makes me wonder if these officials even have consciences.
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Least of all who wins, college football f ans. Even if I think Washington would have eventually lost, I feel cheated that such a chance was taken away. I think any true college football fan feels the same. How cool would it have been to see an overtime between Max Hall and Harvey Unga (who the Huskies couldn’t stop to save their lives) and Jake Locker (who the Cougars showed they really couldn’t stop either.) It would have been an overtime of epic proportions. And we didn’t get to see it.
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What today’s game does do though is set a precedent. Any time a touchdown scorer throws the ball in the air, regardless of how high, it is grounds for excessive celebration. Today's game gives even more power to the referees than the enormous amount they had before.
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So, once again. Who really won today?
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Additional note: According to sportsnation, 77 percent of the country who voted (over 20,000 people) would NOT have called the penalty on Locker. Only one of the 50 states said they would have called the penalty. That's right ... the great state of Utah. Whether you have any respect for sportsnation or not, that's a pretty overwhelming consensus.
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