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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The replay situation was hashed over at Football Outsiders and in the comments on the post about the controversial play. Commenter Volpundit points out that I failed to cite a relevant portion of the rule:

"c. When in question, the ball is passed and not fumbled during an attempted forward pass."
Maize from WCH plays devil's advocate:
I guess if the situation were reversed, I would say that you're right about the arm moving forward, but once his arm passes the release point, I would think that that play stops being a forward pass, and therefore, that would make it a fumble.
The problem is that Henne is hit before his arm passes the release point, at which point his intent ceases to be relevant. Since the forward motion of the arm has begun and he is clearly in a throwing motion when the defender impacts him, if the ball comes out at all, it is an incomplete pass.

Others bring up a new tendency for refs to let a play go when it is in doubt and then allow replay to correct any potential error. It seems clear referees are doing this, which makes sense on one level--once a play is blown dead you get the old "inadvertent whistle" business and an incorrect call is thus forced to stand--but is problematic when the referee's onfield decision is assumed to be correct when he doesn't really know. The Brady Quinn fumble in the ND game is a clear example of this thinking. Quinn was obviously down, but the referees decided to call it all and let replay sort it out. Alton suggests a solution:
Perhaps what is necessary is to invent a new signal to indicate that the refs have made no call, and the replay official is responsible for determining the correct call. Perhaps placing both hands over the eyes, then shrugging and pointing to the press box.
I agree with this idea and believe that close plays should be allowed to continue until their completion, at which time the referees should make a call that reflects their confidence in their decision. Peko should have been allowed to run into the end zone and then an incompletion should have been called. It's okay to be unsure now.

On the other hand, DC Wolverine tells replay to go to hell:
Until this season, Michigan has been very fortunate with instant replay - 90 percent or more of the calls went our way. But we've been f***ed in the ass this season. Until they can get these issues sorted out, i'll take human error.
Even with the problems we've experienced, replay has gotten things right that would have stood as wrong earlier and is a net benefit. Without replay we likely lose the Michigan State game because the Barringer interception is ruled an incompletion. If every replay official was like the guy in the Wisconsin game--who quickly identified plays to review, quickly reviewed them, and quickly got them right--this conversation wouldn't even be taking place. The problem is with specific officials who are probably somewhere between 80 years old and carbon-dated who should take a well-deserved retirement somewhere far away from a football stadium.

I have been there. Bleacher Guy has his take on the MSU game from a Spartan viewpoint. Rob's deeply frustrated by years and years of Spartan football that seems like the same old story. Strangely, I felt not even the slightest twinge of pleasure when reading his piece, and I'm an evil man well versed in the joys of schadenfreude. I think this is because Rob and I (and probably you) are foes on one level but on another we're compatriots. We share the bond of fandom and thus I know how Rob feels and because he comes by his feelings honestly I respect those feelings and sympathize instead of mock.

I was struck on my visit to EL by how friendly the MSU-UM rivalry is, probably because most Michigan fans know or are related to MSU fans and vice versa. My own mother (gasp!) went to Michigan State. Joint tailgates were rampant and what trash-talking existed was good natured. Unlike my trips to Columbus, I felt safe walking around campus, if not welcomed with open arms. I've been to Spartan Stadium four times now (once for hockey) and have never had a particularly negative encounter. There have been some yappy frat guys and an elderly man who, incensed at a relative's referee-berating, asked him if he wanted to "come down here and settle it," but each fanbase gets a few Get Out Of Nutcase Free cards and MSU is well within their allotment.

Rob the Fan has no choice but to bemoan yet another missed opportunity by Michigan State just like Brian the Fan gets the screaming fantods whenever Notre Dame and their Luckmobile show up. There's no rationality there, nor should there be.

On the other hand...

Tenuous justification theatre. I'm apparently falling off the "don't rip CFN" bandwagon. Matthew Zemek tries to back up his assertion that "get Michigan State in a really big, high-stakes battle, and the boys in green can’t take the heat that goes with being a big boy in college football" with this:
The obvious reason why Spartan slip-ups gave Michigan this victory came in overtime, when MSU missed a field goal after Drew Stanton threw a pick that Michigan dropped. But before that, there were boatloads of other boneheaded plays that conveyed the impression that State didn’t want to win this rivalry game. At the end of regulation, an illegal formation penalty—this, in the fifth week of the season in a money situation—prevented State from having a chance to kick a long field goal for the win. And before that, there was the sorry spectacle of Spartan offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin calling a jaw-dropping left-side run on 3rd and 4 from the Wolverine 6 on an eight-minute drive.
Can we agree to discount the accusation levelled at Dave Baldwin, who happens to be running one of the nation's highest powered offenses? He called a run on third and four. It didn't work. That in no way proves that Michigan State choked the game away, unless you want to scream "chokers" at every team that has ever failed to convert a third and four and subsequently lost. Questioning a specific playcall that did not work is almost always asinine (notable exception: calling a WR pass on the last drive of the UF-UM Outback Bowl). If there is a pattern that limits an offense's effectiveness, that's valid grounds for criticism, but plays do not exist in a vacuum. Baldwin thought the play would work for reasons we as fans do not understand because we do not have all the information he does, and given his results to date and the 455 yards he racked up against Michigan you have to give him the benefit of the doubt. That Michigan State's trick play propensity backfired on them is likewise not evidence of choking. It is part of who the Spartans are. Those plays are indeed high risk and high reward. MSU was unfortunate to get the downside of them in this game.

So you've got a pair of missed field goals--admittedly eh not so good--and a single illegal formation penalty at the end of regulation as sole justification for the assertion that "the team that made more mistakes lost this game, as opposed to the winner making more big plays." Funny how no one's saying that about the Arizona State-USC game in which Sam Keller threw five interceptions.

The idea that Michigan State threw this game away rests on a house of cards. Michigan State's penalties were frequently cited--all 5 of them for 27 yards, the most crucial of which (the roughing the kicker penalty) was a terrible call that should never have been made. Michigan State missed two short field goals, but rather than this being evidence of MSU choking it's merely evidence that they don't have an adequate replacement for Dave Rayner. It's a hole in the MSU team. The assertion that MSU played well below their capacity--that they "choked"--is wrong. Stanton was great. The running game was effective. They scored quite a lot. They had a couple turnovers, which will happen when you run an offense like they do, and they missed a couple field goals, which will happen when your kicker is not good. They also gave up a ton of yards because their defense is pretty bad. But they did not drop an inordinate amount of balls: the MSU receiving corps just isn't that good. They were even in the turnover battle if you discount the half-ending Hail Mary interception. They did not fill the field with penalty flags. They played a good game. They neither played significantly below nor significantly above their average capacity, and in the end Michigan State was outgained and, yes, outplayed by Michigan.

But I guess I can't argue with this:
But if you’re going to look at this game as objectively as humanly possible, and offer a studied, discerning examination of the biggest single key in this contest, you have to look to Michigan State’s blunders first and the Hart of a Michigan champion second.
More Emperor's New Punditry here, talking grandiosely about your "studied, discerning examination" and then backing it up with very little other than hoary chestnuts about how Michigan State teams past, teams with different players and a different coach, have folded when in reality the Spartans were fortunate to be within two scores at the end of regulation, having received a giftwrapped touchdown due to refereeing of mindboggling incompetence.

Here's a suggestion: instead of claiming that your examination is studied and discerning, just do it and then let other people talk about how studied and discerning you are, you tweed-wearing bubble-pipe-smoking football professor you.

GRRR! Brian cranky!