If you stayed up late enough to watch it unfold live, you probably went to bed scratching your head. If you went to bed early, like me, and were astounded by the controversy you woke up to you probably felt the same way. The way in how Wisconsin's road game at Arizona State ended is certainly not one that made a whole lot of sense and everybody seemed to go about it wrong, including the Pac 12 refs. On Monday the Pac 12 addressed the way the game was handled by their refs and basically admitted their refs screwed Wisconsin out of an opportunity to win.
According to a conference release, "Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has reprimanded and taken additional sanctions against officials in Saturday night's Wisconsin at Arizona State game for failing to properly administer the end of game situation and act with appropriate urgency on the game's final play." In simple terms, Scott said the refs goofed and a game was likely decided by that unfortunate sequence.
Ultimately we don't know if Wisconsin would have gone. They still would have had to get their special teams on the field, set up and the convert a field goal attempt. The spot and distance were not all too threatening, but who knows if the kick would not have sailed left or right, hit a cross bar or get blocked? We simply do not know, but we would have liked to have at least seen what would have happened.
More form the Pac 12 release…
With 18 seconds remaining in the game, Wisconsin's quarterback ran the ball toward the center of the field, touched his knee to the ground and then placed the ball on the ground. There was initial uncertainty over whether the quarterback had taken a knee, given himself up or fumbled the ball. As a result several Arizona State players considered the ball live and a fumble, and attempted to recover the ball.
Neither the referee nor anyone on his crew moved with appropriate urgency to clearly communicate that the ball was to be spotted so play could resume promptly.
The heat of the moment always can be widely criticized with the benefit of hindsight, instant replay and more. It is a shame the refs did not have a grasp for what was unfolding at this very critical moment, but mistakes do happen. Credit should be given to the Pac 12 and commissioner Larry Scott for addressing the issue as quickly as they did. Mondays are generally the days when these sort of issues are formally addressed publicly, so I won't get on them for not doing so on Sunday.
And let's keep in mind the conference can't overturn the result and award Wisconsin a win and it's not exactly a realistic possibility to replay the game or that down. Other than suspending the refs for a game (and the release does not say that was included or not), there is little that could be done other than offer the public statement. Perhaps an apology to the Badgers, and by extension the Big Ten, would have been appropriate.
"This was an unusual situation to end the game," said Scott. “After a thorough review, we have determined that the officials fell short of the high standard in which Pac-12 games should be managed. We will continue to work with all our officials to ensure this type of situation never occurs again."
Here's hoping refs in every conference, and not just the Pac 12, observe what happened here and review the procedures to ensure they do not do the same next time they take a field for a game.