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Texas - Oklahoma State game: A different angle on the Strong/Ford penalties

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Remember the game context here: it's 1st and 10 for the Cowboys at the UT 44.  Under 4 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. OSU's last 27 plays of the game will yield 51 yards (on 7 different drives) and the Cowboy QB has thrown two interceptions in the second half. This is a game in defensive stalemate.  Texas leads 27-24.

First, the defensive holding call on Ford...

1.  Poona Ford #95 is double-teamed.

2.  He gets blown out.

3.  He is clearly held by #73.  Stop the video at the 2 second mark.  Look at #73's right arm.  Advance.  Any questions?

4.  Ford attempts to split the double team.  This is the technique (go to 30 second mark) he's trying to execute. Poorly.  He can't execute it because he 1). got way too high early and 2. he's being held by #73.

5.  A DL has every right to resist a double team. The best practice for any doubled defender who has lost leverage and losing ground is try to work across towards the ball, engaging the closest playside blocker.  Ford does that. That blocker is #74.

6. The official is about five yards away.  He watches #95 Ford get held for a full two second count and then throws the flag as OSU's ballcarrier is being tackled out of frame.

7.  If you want to make a call there, the only defensible call is: Holding, Oklahoma State.  1st and 20, OSU back on their side of the field.

8.  Poona and the OSU OL (and Jinkens, the UT LB behind them) aren't relevant to the play.  The ball carrier is on the ground at the line of scrimmage when the official decides he's detected an infraction.  On...Texas?

9.  Given the game situation and objective reality, this is one of the most extraordinary penalties I've ever seen.

Apparently, Strong shared my opinion.

He starts complaining to the official on the field who made the call (off frame)...

1.  The sideline referee aggressively pursues Strong to defend the call.  This angle shows that perfectly.

2.  He pursues when Charlie walks off.  He's yelling at Strong.  There's a shouting match on the move as Strong retreats.  Why is the referee pursuing an angry coach?

3.  The ref breaks parallel and advances into Charlie's space, leans in confrontationally, and Strong withdraws again. Strong is now giving up ground.  This is a coach who just got screwed and the ref is trying to get into his space.

4.  When Strong gesticulates sharply on his final retreat, he's flagged for appearing to say something like,"Fuck that call."

5. Weak doesn't even begin to describe that flag.

6. Look at the official's face and body language during their exchange.  His harrying of Strong.  Why is he yelling and leaning in on an angry coach?  This referee is a disinterested arbiter of the rules?

In totality, that's a pretty extraordinary 20 second sequence.  A unique one.  You can watch college football every Saturday for the next decade and you won't see it again.

As an official, your job is to be the disinterested party.  The cooler head.  Particularly when there's a 88 yard differential in penalties and you've already reversed a turnover on an odd roughing call, called back two touchdowns and had a strange ruling on a fumble recovery. Competent officials instinctively remove themselves from conflict.  They also understand game impact.

They certainly don't bait, verbally battle or antagonize an angry coach.

That's 25 yards (10 Ford, 15 Strong) of fabricated penalties assessed against Texas and a life raft to an OSU offense drowning in negative plays and turnovers.  OSU gets the ball on the UT 19, immediately stalls, and ties the game at 27 with a field goal.

That's how the referee chose to conduct himself while defending a bizarre call in a game defined by bizarre calls.

This was more random distribution of human error?  This was a game officiated by a dispassionate group of disinterested professionals with no discernible point of view?

Okay.  Got it.  My bad.