31 August 2012

Interference ... or not?

My Vanderbilt Commodores helped open the college football season on Thursday night by hosting the #9-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks.  I always root for my alma maters (Vanderbilt and Indiana), but as the football season moves along, it usually becomes clear that the chances of seeing my schools win will improve greatly once basketball season arrives.  Opening this season at home with a top-ten SEC school did not bode well for my desire to see Vandy get off to a good start.

We lost to South Carolina, 17-13, after leading early in the 4th quarter.  Vandy might have looked better than I thought we'd look, and South Carolina might not have looked like a top-ten team.  The two schools appeared more evenly matched than I thought they'd be before the start of the game.

With just under two minutes left in the game and facing a 4th and 7 from our own 38-yard line, Vandy quarterback Jordan Rogers threw a long pass toward the right sideline for Jordan Matthews.  South Carolina safety D. J. Swearinger was defending Matthews.  The pass made it to about the South Carolina 35-yard line.  Check out the two images below (click on each for a larger view).

The above images show Matthews preparing to catch the ball just before it reached him.  Now there is an interesting rule in 2011 and 2012 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations, specifically Section 3, Article 8, part c on page FR-74, which says, "Defensive pass interference is contact beyond the neutral zone by a Team B player whose intent to impede an eligible opponent is obvious and it could prevent the opponent the opportunity of receiving a catchable forward pass."  Matthews did not make the catch, ending Vandy's shot at a win.  No flag for defensive interference was thrown on the play shown in the above images.  I think grabbing a player's arm and yanking it down suggests that Swearinger did "prevent the opponent the opportunity of receiving a catchable forward pass."  WE WERE ROBBED!

Okay, so I'm a disgruntled fan who hated to see a ref miss a call that would've given my school a chance to beat a top-ten-ranked school in our season opener.  We made plenty of mistakes during the rest of the game and missed calls are just part of the game.  There was no guarantee that we would've scored the winning touchdown had a ref made the proper call.  But it would've been fun to see if we could have done it.

College football is great because year after year, we make an emotional investment in our alma maters' gridiron exploits.  The vicissitudes within each game vex us more than they should -- hey, it's just a game, right?.  After a close loss to a top-ten team, this Vandy alumnus does what comes all too naturally -- chalk up another moral victory.

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