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Texas A&M vs. LSU - Reviewing and Rating the Controversial Calls

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Sorting out the controversial officiating moments from Texas A&M’s 7 OT victory over LSU

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Austin and his SEC refereeing crew were in the spotlight after a few controversial calls in Texas A&M’s insane 74-72 win over LSU last evening. While a lot of games have some questionable calls that seemingly swing the outcome, Texas A&M/LSU had at least three major incidents in do-or-die plays that would’ve closed out the game for LSU.

Here is a breakdown of those calls and a 1-10 rating of how jobbed LSU was by the call, 1 being “nothing to see here” and 10 being “a Corps member was holding the ref’s family hostage at saber-point.”

Controversial play #1: I kneed a hero

After LSU’s offense failed to clinch the game with a first down, the Aggies were given another shot to tie the 31-24 ballgame with 1:23 left in 4th quarter. After starting from their own 22-yard line and moving the offense 25 yards up the field, Mond was facing a 2nd & 10 at the 47 when he took a bad snap off the ground and attempted a throw while simultaneously getting pummeled by LSU LB Devin White. White’s hit put Mond’s ball up for grabs where it was picked off and run back for a TD by LSU S Grant Delpit. It looked like the game was over, but to the surprise of everyone watching - and even Mond himself - the play was dead before the ball hit the air.

Jobbedness rating: 1

After reviewing the play, the refs saw that fumbled snap had been downed by Mond at the A&M 39 as his knee was on the turf after regaining possession of the loose ball, thereby erasing the INT and LSU’s TD. Replay confirmed this ruling.

If there’s any controversy here, it would have to be with whether or not Mond was in possession of the ball when his knee was down. By rule, a player has to have the ball “firmly in his grasp” to be in possession of it. Pulling a ball off the turf by the nose with enough control to get it to your other hand would seem to satisfy the definition of “firmly in his grasp,” and Mond clearly started that process with his knee down.

Mond’s knee down during the play
ESPN

While this play gets a “nothing to see here” jobbedness rating, it will live on in infamy due not because of the call itself, but because of the premature Gatorade bath given to LSU coach Ed Orgeron that left him soggy for the seven overtimes ahead.

Controversial play #2: You had me at ‘yellow’

After Mond inadvertently saved the day by downing the ball 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage, A&M found itself in a long 4th & 18 with 0:15 to go. Mond hit Quartney Davis for a long completion, but one that looked around a half yard short of the line to gain for anyone watching at home.

Quartney Davis catching a ball at the LSU 41
ESPN

Jobbedness rating: -11

The announcers constantly remind us that the yellow line isn’t official, and this play is why. A&M was facing 4th and 18 starting at its own 39 yard line, meaning the line to gain was the LSU 43. Quartney Davis caught the ball at the LSU 41, well past the marker, but short of the superimposed yellow line since the line itself was 2 yards off the mark.

A&M starting and ending locations on 4th & 18
ESPN

While this initially looked like the call LSU fans would throw in the face of Aggies for decades to come, it turns out that there is less than “nothing to see here.”

Controversial play #3: We are not the fumble of our possessions

With the yellow line incident so thoroughly debunked, this next play is the one LSU fans are sure to scream about for a while.... and they’ve got some right to this one. On A&M’s first snap in OT, Mond hit A&M TE Jace Sternberger for a pass inside the 5-yard line that was forced loose by LSU S Grant Delpit and recovered off the ground by LSU DB Greedy Williams. Since LSU scored a FG on their possession, a turnover here ends the game.

Everyone watching at home, Aggies included, initially thought Sternberger had caught the ball, turned up-field, and coughed it up to end the game with a turnover in overtime. Luckily for A&M fans, the side judge saw it differently and ran in signaling an incomplete pass, clearly deeming that Sternberger wasn’t in possession of the ball when it was knocked loose.

Jobbedness rating: 3 for an Ag, 11 for a Tiger

While this article was written with an attempt to be unbiased, this is the play where it’s impossible to be seen as such while writing on an A&M blog. If you’re an LSU fan, the jobbedness rating on this is an 11, and any Aggie would feel the same if the teams were flipped here. There’s only one valid reason to say LSU didn’t get jobbed here, and that’s because of the call on the field.

Side judge waves off Sternberger’s drop as incomplete
ESPN

This entire play comes down to the definition of a catch, which is second only to targeting when it comes to differing interpretations by review booths. In this instance it’s clear that Sternberger secured the ball, but it’s unclear if he “maintains control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform an act common to the game, i.e., long enough to pitch or hand the ball, advance it, avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.,”

In slow motion Sternberger appeared to catch the ball, turn up-field to advance the ball, and wasn’t able to react to the defender. In real-time, it’s even harder to determine if he ever began the process of advancing the ball. Ultimately, if the call is at all questionable, the review booth has to defer to the call on the field. Had the side judge called this a fumble, the booth wouldn’t overturn it. Regardless of the call though, Matt Austin not making an announcement after the review certainly didn’t help this to look like less of a jobbing.

It was a hell of a game. Hopefully this means there will be an actual rivalry brewing that will inspire CuppyCup and LSUFreek to restart their GIF duel, the matchup where everyone is a winner.