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With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Greg Peck: Fuzzy rule frustrating this football fan

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Greg Peck
November 25, 2015

I’ve been following football so long I can remember when Bart Starr was leading the Packers and when fans at Camp Randall flung rolls of toilet paper, creating long, white streamers to celebrate the rare UW touchdown amid another trouncing by visiting Michigan or Ohio State.

But I’ve become a disillusioned fan in recent years, all because of one head-scratching rule. I doubt I’m alone.

That idiotic rule reared up and bit the Badgers in their collective behinds Saturday at Camp Randall. I’m not talking about the refs nullifying Alex Erickson’s punt return touchdown because he tried to alert teammates to stay clear of the bouncing ball by waving his hands below his waist and a stupid college rule states that any hand signal constitutes a fair catch signal. Instead, I’m talking about the rule that determines whether a receiver “completes the process” of a catch.

Wisconsin trailed Northwestern, 13-7, in the closing seconds when the UW’s Jake Peavy caught a one-yard pass from Joel Stave for an apparent touchdown. An extra point kick likely would have let Bucky escape with a victory.

The refs signaled a touchdown but then went to the instant replay. Peavy took at least three steps after making the catch in the end zone, then was pushed to the ground. A replay official ruled that because the ball moved slightly while Peavy was rolling over out of bounds, he did not “complete the process” of making the catch, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday.

You don’t have to be a Badger fan to consider this nonsense.

The loss cost the UW a chance at a better bowl game. Of course, given the UW’s offensive deficiencies and inconsistencies, you can argue the Badgers don’t deserve any better bowl contest than what they wind up getting.

But wait. It gets worse. Bill Carollo, the director of Big Ten officiating, compared this “noncatch” to a similarly controversial play involving Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys in their playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers last season.

When college football must use the NFL to justify idiotic rulings, it has big problems.

I remember that Bryant play and thinking the catch would be ruled incomplete after seeing a controversial play in September 2010. Back then, the Detroit Lions thought they’d beaten the Chicago Bears on a late touchdown catch by Calvin Johnson. But Johnson dropped the ball and proceeded to celebrate, and the officials ruled he didn’t have control of the ball when he hit the ground. Chicago won.

How can the sport rule that someone scored a touchdown just by reaching over the end zone pylon with the ball while falling out of bounds—before actually hitting the ground—and yet rule that someone who took several steps in the end zone after catching a pass but then let the ball slip while falling out of bounds didn’t complete the catch?

In college, you only need one foot in bounds on a sideline catch. But I guess making at least three steps in the end zone aren’t enough. So how many are? Four? Five? What if Peavy had taken four or five and then done a standing summersault to celebrate, only to let the ball slip out of his hands in the process? Incomplete?

As I said, nonsense.

I hope I don’t see such a scenario again Thursday and choke on a turkey bone or wind up with indigestion. It’d be no reason to give thanks.

To his credit, Badger coach Paul Chryst said he spoke to the Big Ten office twice about the disputed play and told a reporter, “They stand behind the call, and they need to.”

Also to his credit, he disagreed that there was “indisputable” replay evidence supposedly needed to overturn a call made on the field, but added, “You know what? We’ve got to move on.”

Chryst is right again when he stated, “I think that in trying to be right … we’ve made it harder and harder on the officials.”

I don’t recall being this frustrated while watching football in the era of Bart Starr, before instant replay allowed for most any call made by the guys in stripes to be reversed.


Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or [email protected]. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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