The Top 10 Worst Calls of the BCS Era

Brian Scott@@mancaveradioshoAnalyst ISeptember 12, 2008

Since incompetent officiating is fresh on the minds of college football fans everywhere, I thought it may help the victims of this latest hosing to know that they are not alone.  Here, we examine the worst calls of the BCS era, which comprises the last ten years of college football.

Before I get a slew of e-mails asking me why so many of these games occurred in 2007, I can only tell you that it’s fitting that college football’s craziest season ever also contained some of the worst calls of the decade.  But this is meant to be an interactive article, so please utilize the comments section below to bellow, rant, or add your own pick to the list.

Drum roll please, here’s the countdown:

10.  Pen State vs. MichiganOctober 14, 2005


This game was pretty painful to watch until both teams woke up in the 4th quarter and decided to start scoring. 

Penn State scored a late touchdown to give the Nittany Lions a 25-21 lead.  On the ensuing drive, Michigan seems to get a lot of favorable calls that help them get down the field. The most notable officiating blunder, however, was adding two unexplained seconds to the clock that allowed Michigan enough time to score the winning touchdown.

9.  .Ole Miss vs. Alabama - October 13, 2007


This was one of the most complicated calls I’ve ever seen. In real time, it appeared that the Ole Miss receiver and the Alabama defender both caught the ball and wrestled each other to the ground, then the Ole Miss player emerged with the ball. The problem is that the Ole Miss player stepped out of bounds first. 

Here’s the thing, if he was pushed out then he can come back in to the field of play; if not, he can come back into the field of play but can’t be the first one to touch the ball. 

The initial ruling was that it was a catch by the Ole Miss receiver on the five yard line or so (Ole Miss was down by three with little time left on the clock). Regardless of who was right and who was wrong, reviewing the video shows that every aspect of this play was disputable, yet the play was overturned due to alleged “irrefutable” video evidence. 

As it turns out, the game had no impact on the big picture in college football because both teams went on to an embarrassingly pathetic season, but a win here could have given Ole Miss a confidence boost that they have so desperately needed since Eli Manning graduated.

8.  UConn vs. LouisvilleOctober 19, 2007


UConn was trailing Louisville in the third quarter of this game when the Cardinals were setting up for a routine punt. The snap went back, the ball flew up high off the punter’s foot, and Larry Taylor was the lone setback for the Huskies.

As the ball approached Taylor, he put his hand up to signal for a fair catch, but to the amazement of the Louisville special teams, Taylor took off with the ball. He naturally had plenty of room since Louisville saw the signal and defenders peeled off to head for the sideline. Instead, Taylor ran 74 yards for a touchdown.

As it turned out, the officials said that since Taylor did not wave his hand in a full back and forth motion, the signal was invalid. What they should have known was that if a fair catch signal is ruled invalid, the ball becomes dead and the receiving team forfeits the right to advance the ball on that play.

UConn went on the win the game 21-17, thanks to the punt return that should have been nullified.

7.      Washington vs. BYU – September 6, 2008


This was the one freshest on our minds and frankly triggered the inception of this list. A close game that pitted the Washington Huskies against a BYU team that has been called a potential “BCS Buster” in the pre-season, had one of the most bizarre endings in recent memory.

Huskies quarterback Jake Locker had capped off an impressive drive by scampering into the end zone and bringing his team within one point of BYU. Locker, noticeably excited from scoring the go ahead touchdown, appeared to throw the football over his shoulder, but it instead flew up in the air.

The referee called it unsportsmanlike conduct, citing that the rules state if the ball is thrown high into the air it can be called for excessive celebration, according to the official’s discretion. The Huskies were penalized 15 yards and instead of a simple PAT, they had to attempt a 32 yard field goal to tie the game. The attempt was blocked.

This was obviously a ridiculous call as ball being tossed in the air was clearly not an attempt to “showboat” by Locker. Furthermore, seeing as how the call impacted the outcome of the game, restraint should have been exercised by the official.

On the other hand, if Washington’s special teams unit had converted a relatively easy field goal, the game would have gone into overtime and they would have had a chance to win.  Regardless, it was a moronic call.

6.    Temple vs. UConn – September 15, 2007


There was no excuse for this call seeing as how it occurred well after instant replay had been implemented in college football. Coming into this game, UConn had not lost yet and Temple had not won yet.

Temple’s defense played like warriors, sacking UConn’s Lorenzen six times and stuffing the Huskies offense on a crucial 4th and inches play. UConn failed again later in the fourth quarter on a 4th and 1 at the Owls' 28 yard line. These big stops by the Temple D gave them the chance to win.

Owl quarterback Adam DiMichele drove Temple to the UConn 11-yard line on the ensuing drive, setting up the wild and controversial fourth-down play.

Temple called a reverse to wide receiver Dyonne Crudup, who rolled left and tossed the ball into the end zone. A UConn defender deflected the ball, but a Temple player caught it in the back of the end zone with one foot still in bounds.  The catch, however, was ruled out of bounds.

Despite indisputable video evidence that the ball was caught in bounds, the Big East replay official confirmed the ruling on the field, thus taking the win away from Temple.

This blunder didn’t have much of an impact on the season, but Temple was clearly in a position to win that game and they hadn’t done much winning in the recent past.  A big win over UConn could have done wonders for the confidence of the players, coaching staff, and fans and they were clearly robbed of that chance.

5 & 4.  Purdue vs. Penn StateNovember 3, 2007 & Illinois vs. Ohio State

            November 10, 2007


We’ll get to the reason why we had to lump these two games together in just a second. The fact is that both games had a ton of horrible calls that affected the outcome as well. But the really interesting thing about this pair of Big 10 games played on back to back weekends is that they are linked by a common officiating crew.

These games actually sparked an investigation of the officials which brought to light some very interesting factoids about the crew leader, Stephen Pramon. It seems that Mr. Pramon had previously filed bankruptcy, citing debts of over $400,000. The kicker is that two of the listed creditors were casinos.

While the investigation never came right out and accused Pramon of attempting to alter games he was officiating, it was certainly implied as a strong possibility. Pramon and his crew were eventually fired as a result of the investigation.

The reason why the OSU-Illinois game gets a slightly higher ranking is because the loss caused Ohio State to lose their #1 ranking. Illinois did play lights out football, and they certainly played good enough to win, but their effort was definitely overshadowed by controversial calls. 

This game might have been even higher on the list had OSU not had a chance to play for the national title anyway.

3.       Oklahoma vs. OregonSeptember 16, 2006


Now we’re getting into the area where bad calls are more than just bad officiating, but have the makings of blatant cheating.

It was a hard fought game in Autzen Stadium and Oregon had just scored a touchdown to bring the score to 33-27.  Oklahoma was ahead by 6 and there was 1:09 left on the clock.  Oregon naturally attempts the onside kick and it is recovered by an OU player.

To the amazement of everyone in the stadium, the announcers, and everyone watching at home, they refs call for a review.  It goes to the replay booth where Oregon fan and local Eugene resident Gordon Reise misses what everyone else in the world saw; that an Oregon player touched the ball before it went 10 yards and an OU player recovered it.  It also turns out that the referee who called for the review was a high school buddy of Oregon coach Mike Belotti.

The ball was given to Oregon.  What?! 


To add insult to injury, during the ensuing Ducks drive there was a pass interference call on OU that was again under review. To no one’s surprise, the homer replay official confirms the interference even though the replay clearly shows the ball was tipped first.

Oregon gets the call, scores on the next play, and ultimately wins the game.

2.      LSU vs. AuburnSeptember 16, 2006

It was one of those typical SEC smashmouth, defensive struggles. LSU was up 3-0 at halftime, and Auburn had scored a touchdown in the third quarter to make it 7-3. 

There were two calls that robbed LSU of a chance to win the game. The first was a catch resulting in a first down by Jacob Hester. Hester made the catch, but then dropped the ball and it went out of bounds. It was ruled a reception on the field. The play was reviewed and could only be overturned if “indisputable” evidence existed. The replay clearly showed that Hester had possession and took two full steps before dropping the ball, but the replay official overturned the call on the field.

Then with 2:46 left on the clock, LSU was going for it on 4th and 6. Jamarcus Russell dropped back and threw a dart to an open Early Doucet. Before Doucet could make the catch, an Auburn defender tackled him and drew a flag. The refs conferred and announced that it was pass interference on the defense and that LSU would advance 15 yards and get a 1st down.

Inexplicably, the referee then waved off the flag saying that there was no interference because the ball had been tipped by a defender. Back to the replay booth. The replay clearly showed that the ball was tipped, but only after Doucet was tackled. This meant that the interference happened before the tip; therefore the interference call should stand.

The replay official overturned the interference and gave the ball back to Auburn. It was later discovered that the replay official was not only an Auburn alumnus, but was also a big booster to the program. I guess that’s how he got the job. Nevertheless, this blatant home cooking cost LSU a chance to play for the SEC Championship and possibly a national title.

1.      Ohio State vs. Miami (Florida) – January 3, 2003 (BCS National Title Game)


Miami came into the Fiesta Bowl heavily favored and led by their standout quarterback Ken Dorsey. The game was an epic battle that went back and forth until the final seconds ticked off the regulation clock and the game went into overtime.

Miami scored a touchdown on their first possession, forcing Ohio State to respond in kind or lose the game. Ohio State fails on their first three attempts and ends up facing 4th down and 3 on the 5 yard line. They must score or Miami wins the game.

Krenzel drops back and throws for Chris Gamble in the end zone, but the ball goes incomplete. Miami wins. But wait, then a referee who had apparently just woken up from a nap decides that he thinks he saw interference, he throws a flag.

They have to get the fans off the field and the coaches back to the sidelines. The flag came in way after the play was over and the Hurricanes were already celebrating a national title. Looks like Ohio State would get another chance.

The replay shows that the Gamble touched the ball and it bounced off his shoulder pads well before the Miami defender touched him. According to the official definition of pass interference, this was not it. 

When later asked about why the flag was thrown so late, the referee said he was “going over the play in his head to see if there was interference.  Huh?!  Does he have a video-graphic memory?  How about just looking at the Jumbotron?

In fact, if the call wasn’t so obvious that he had to think about it, perhaps he shouldn’t have thrown the flag on fourth down in overtime at the national freaking championship game.  Sure, Miami got one more chance to tie the game and blew it, but the point was that the game was over but they were still playing because of a horrible call.

The one good thing that came out of this king of all blunders was the implementation of instant replay in college football. 

Now if we can just get the homers out of the replay booths!


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