The Texas Longhorns fell just short of pulling off a massive upset against the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, and the referees received the brunt of the blame on social media for Texas' loss.
Even with Longhorns starting quarterback Quinn Ewers getting knocked out of the game early with an apparent shoulder injury and backup Hudson Card seemingly playing much of the contest with a leg ailment, it took a field goal in closing seconds for Bama to edge Texas 20-19.
The first hugely controversial play of the game occurred in the third quarter when Alabama quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young was seemingly sacked in the end zone for a safety.
It would have put the Longhorns up 12-10, and the fans at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin went wild. However, the celebration was cut off when the referee announced Texas had been called for targeting and roughing the passer.
After review, the official noted that there was no targeting and that roughing the passer had been mistakenly announced. Texas fans cheered, but the ref also announced fourth down for Alabama, meaning there was no safety either.
The confusing announcement led many experts and fans wondering what had gone down:
Grant Johnson @Tizzle45
If the refs are wanting to protect players, they should’ve blown the whistle and called a safety, instead of let the play continue. Bad call on the field. <a href="https://twitter.com/AlabamaFTBL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AlabamaFTBL</a> gets a major break. <a href="https://twitter.com/TexasFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TexasFootball</a> should’ve had 2 points for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/safety?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#safety</a> and the ball. Terrible call
Jerry Wustrack @jwt0480
After further review, <a href="https://twitter.com/AlabamaFTBL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AlabamaFTBL</a> cannot be tackled for a safety. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TexasVsAlabama?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TexasVsAlabama</a> <a href="https://t.co/jDr5Ym3fUs">pic.twitter.com/jDr5Ym3fUs</a>
Ultimately, it was determined that Young was never down before he threw the ball away, although he did have his forward progress stopped and the ball didn't come close to reaching the line of scrimmage, so a strong case could have been made for a sack or intentional grounding, either of which would have resulted in a safety.
Texas managed to recover and take a 13-10 lead in the third quarter and later extended it to 16-10 in the fourth, but the Longhorns perhaps could have done even more damage if not for another questionable call.
During the second field-goal drive, Texas running back Keilan Robinson looked like he was clearly facemasked, but there was no call, which led to some incredulous responses on Twitter:
The Longhorns had to settle for a field goal, which left the door open for the Tide rather than putting them down by two scores.
Alabama took advantage with a go-ahead touchdown with 8:29 left, but Texas responded with a field goal with 1:29 remaining to restore the Longhorns' lead to 19-17.
Texas left too much time on the clock for Young, though, as he drove Bama down the field for what turned out to be a game-winning, 33-yard field goal with 10 seconds left on the clock.
Once Texas' upset bid ended, there was plenty of mention of the safety that never was since there was only a one-point margin of defeat:
While it is unclear how the game might have changed with the safety call, Texas would have had the lead and possession of the ball, and it could have potentially added to that two-point advantage.
Instead, the game remained tied and Young took over in the fourth quarter to avoid what would have been the biggest win for the Texas football program in more than a decade.