Kansas Vs. TCU: Reviewing the Refs

As the resident referee apologist around here, I feel it's an obligation to share the other side when it is warranted. After Saturday's game against TCU, I think it is definitely warranted. Before getting to the few calls that bugged me as I was watching, we need a few disclaimers. First and most important, none of these calls stopped Kansas from winning the game. There is zero doubt in my mind that TCU was the better team and anyone that watched the game can objectively say the same thing. They won and we lost on the field. Highlighting these calls is not an attempt to say we got screwed. Second, the men who work for the Big 12 are thoroughly trained at what they do, know the rules better than we do, and are better at officiating than I am.

However, as a person that works as an official it bothers the hell out of me when I see obvious calls missed and other calls made that don't exist. Officiating football is a difficult task and there are times when things are ignored due to the severity of the infraction or its importance to the game. That's just a fact of life in the sports world. A hold on the backside that is ten yards from the play is ignored because nobody is gaining a competitive advantage. None of the calls in this post fit into that category. The Big 12 and their officials have to be better than they were on Saturday.

First up, a holding call against Kansas. This is definitely a hold.


Defender is wrapped, turned, and drug to the ground. Easy call. How the next one wasn't called is beyond me.

Missed Holding

A KU defensive lineman gets passed the lineman.


We can see the lineman turned with his arms out. A split second later, we get this.


Arms out. Jersey pulled. QB still has the ball. How the white hat didn't see this in the backfield I have no idea. His focus in this instance is on protecting his QB, he has one guy threatening the QB. That's exactly where his eyes should be. TCU completes a pass and gets a 23 yard gain for a first down early in the 4th quarter.

Missed Holding and/or Block in Back

This play occurred on a first down with 8:20 left in the third quarter. They gained 6 yards and went on to score a touchdown on this drive. TCU lines up and throws a screen to the home side of the field. Heeney is in pursuit and goes to cut off the sideline.


We can see Heeney ahead of #69 of TCU and the RB outside of Heeney. The Line Judge is watching ball carrier and this action. The Field Judge should also be keyed in on the blocks ahead of the ball carrier from 25 yards or so downfield.


Clearly the lineman chose not to pass on the block. Getting Heeney from behind and reaching out as we can see the hand on the shoulder. Amazing miss. If my crew on a Friday night high school game missed this with five officials, we'd be eaten alive.

Phantom "Leg Whip"

KU's final drive ended on a Dayne Crist fumble that was recovered in the end zone by TCU. On the play, there was a flag for a personal foul described as a "leg whip". This is curious for two reasons. First, here is the NCAA Rulebook for the 2011-2012 season. Hitting "ctrl+F" and then searching for "legwhip" or "leg whip" yields zero results. There is no such call in the NCAA rulebook, yet the officials on Saturday threw a flag and penalized both teams for a "leg whip". A true leg whip is illegal because tripping by definition.

Tripping is intentionally using the lower leg or foot to obstruct an opponent below the knees (Rule 9-1-2-c).

Tripping: No person subject to the rules shall strike an opponent with his foot or any part of his leg that is below the knee.

It should be referred to that by officials when describing their penalty unless they are inventing rules on the fly. The second thing that makes it curious is that it didn't happen. A case of an official searching for a call and being fooled by depth perception is what happened.

Look at the KU lineman flat on his back with his legs down. Then look at the TCU D-lineman chasing Crist.


A split second later, we have this.


The KU lineman is lifting his legs to gather himself. TCU D-lineman is being carried away from him because of momentum. The Umpire is straightlined eight yards away. He sees a lineman lift his legs and a D-lineman lose his in the same direction, he sees a trip legwhip.

Saving the Best for Last

3rd and 17 for TCU on the KU 37 in the 4th quarter. Pachall drops back and hits a receiver 16 yards downfield. This ended up being one of the big let downs of the day on the defense considering TCU just took a delay penalty that moved them out of FG range. Pachall completes a 16 yard pass and McDougald drops the receiver right after the catch, preventing the first down. Bad because they're in field goal range now but they didn't get the first down. The next thing I see is a flag. No way was McDougald early so I'm confused why the back judge is tossing one. The explanation turns into targeting a defenseless receiver. Yes, hitting a receiver after he caught the ball in the air has turned into a penalty somehow. It shouldn't have been, at least not by the rule book.

A point of emphasis has been head to head contact and targeting defenseless receivers. From the NCAA rulebook, we have this description:

Point of emphasis: "Using the helmet as a weapon. The helmet is for protection
of the player..." and "players and coaches should emphasize the elimination of
targeting and initiating contact against a defenseless opponent and/or with the
crown of the helmet."

Very noble intent by the NCAA and it is damn near impossible to call as an official but we do have two key words in this comment. INITIATING. CROWN.

And the relevant rule reference for this penalty:

Defenseless Player: Contact to Head or Neck Area
ARTICLE 4. No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area
of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder. When
in question, it is a foul (Rules 2-27-14 and 9-6).

Again, INITIATE and then we get the additional information about head and neck area. Lets go to what happened.


Very blurry pic but it has to be used because it shows how contact was initiated. Is there any way McDougald initiated contact above the shoulders or with the crown of his helmet?

A second angle on the replay showed how ridiculous this call was.


If a guy is targeting a receiver and leading with the crown of his helmet, his legs will not be underneath him. He will not be wrapping up the receiver for the tackle. Reading through some caseplays in the rulebook, this was a relevant entry:

Receiver A83 has just leaped and received a forward pass. As A83 is
about to regain his balance, B45 launches and drives into A83 above the
shoulder area with his helmet or shoulder. RULING: Foul by B45 for
targeting and initiating contact with a defenseless opponent above the
shoulders. Ejection for a flagrant foul.

The one caseplay provided in the NCAA rulebook specifies above the shoulders. McDougald does eventually make contact above the shoulders but he does not initiate contact above the shoulder. He does not lead with the crown of his helmet. He does not launch and drive. The official that threw this flag had better get a 1 rating and start worrying about continued employment by the Big 12.

The Big 12 conference is one of the top football conferences in the nation. The calls highlighted here would have been made correctly on a Friday night in Kansas with five officials. The fans, players, and coaches that care about the Big 12 deserve better.

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