The counter to my column: Bollixed officiating in MSU-Nebraska game unacceptable; explanation warranted

Blaming officials for a team’s woes is usually a short-sighted view, one I’ve mistakenly had many times as a writer. I tried for better perspective in today’s Lansing State Journal column — a rather depressing piece, upon reflection — about Michigan State’s 28-24 loss Saturday to Nebraska, and to not simply pin the Spartans’ latest heartbreaking loss on two horrible calls, as replays show.

MSU had chances that had nothing to do with officials.

Among them: How about trusting your QB on your final drive and chasing another first down before just chasing away seconds? And after gaining 8 yards on three downs, go for it on fourth-and-2.

Afterwards, head coach Mark Dantonio and offensive coordinator Dan Roushar both lamented those two decisions.

Or just make the stop on fourth-and-10 (easy to say from my perch).

But the frustration with the officiating is also absolutely fair, especially from players and coaches who spend all year preparing for these 12 games. It’s a brutal sport, in terms of commitment and physical price, and when an official alters the outcome of the game, it’s deflating.

And, there is no question, two incorrect calls impacted the result.

The first, Darqueze Dennard’s 95-yard fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown, negated by a personal foul call on Johnny Adams. The video shows this was a legal hit, a sound block in front of the shoulder of a Nebraska player. Dennard’s run back was an exceptional display of athletic ability — as was his first INT — but, more importantly, it should have put MSU ahead 31-14. In other words, ball game.

The second bad call was, of course, when Dennard was flagged for pass interference in the end zone on a third down in the final minute. I haven’t heard one person agree with it yet, from ESPN SportsCenter anchors to the former VP of NFL officials. It looked like perfect defense from a player who’s really emerged this year.

The first call cost MSU the game. The second probably cost MSU a chance to win it in overtime.

My issue is why these calls were made. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio tried to take the high road Saturday night.

“Everybody’s trying to do the very best they can do out there,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s out for Michigan State, I don’t think anyone’s out for Nebraska. It’s an instinctive game and it’s instinctive for officials, too.”

Well, if your instinct is to make those calls, you shouldn’t be officiating. These were huge moments. You’re either incompetent as a ref or you enjoy making yourself part of the game, which means you’re unethical. I guess the former is the better option, if you have to choose.

Either way, an explanation is warranted. At the very least, the Big Ten office should admit these were goofs. Players and coaches work too hard and fans invest too much to put up with such amateurism at this level.

These weren’t tough calls. Definitely weren’t necessary ones.

MSU could have taken it out of the officials’ hands, but when the Spartans didn’t, they also didn’t deserve to have the game taken from them.

It’s a tough way to go into a bye week. And an awful way to essentially fall from relevance.

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54 Responses to The counter to my column: Bollixed officiating in MSU-Nebraska game unacceptable; explanation warranted

  1. avatar cobs says:

    There were bad calls on both sides. Like the late hit out of bounds when the Husker player was pushed in to the guy by a spartan player. That 15 yards resulted in a TD for the Spartans. I agree that was not PI in the end zone, but it gave the TD back that the Spartans shouldn’t of got. There were 2 PI calls against the Huskers that shouldn’t of been called either, even the commentators said they were questionable and probably shouldn’t of been called. There are 2 teams that need to be beat in every game, the other team and the refs. I will admit that the Spartans outplayed the Huskers for all but about 5 min of the 2nd half. Good luck in your final games.

    • avatar cobs says:

      The 1st half was a well played even game.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      Fair analysis. The number of cheap flags this season on out of bounds hits, when the defender’s moment carries him into the ball-carrier, is getting ridiculous.

      • avatar AAsparty says:

        I was ringside for yesterday’s game and while I was upset by the blown calls I was equally astonished with the non-calls (lot of holding) and the late flags, that grounding call in particular, everyone in the stadium saw that and they had to talk them into flagging it…

        • avatar AAsparty says:

          not going to pin this loss on the zebras either but it was frustrating…

          • avatar cobs says:

            I agree it was grounding, I think what took so long on that is they were making sure that Martinez wasn’t outside the tackles where he is allowed to throw the ball away. They also had to see if the ball went past the line of scrimage. They ended up getting that call right. I never mind the refs talking about it and making sure as long as they get the call right, they did on that. Holding calls, sure, on both teams. That sometimes is the most missed call, but these kids are not out there to play touch, holding is going to happen.

  2. avatar AAsparty says:

    yeah, these guys were just bad, on both sides. My hat’s off to Martinez, pretty slick moves and some excellent reads and fakes, not sure what they’re going to do with him in the NFL but that guy is an outstanding college player, and when Burkhead is 100% you’re going to have one hell of an offense….

  3. avatar D. Mayer says:

    Two bad calls that had nothing to do with zebras. Punting into end zone to gain 18 yards field position (whoop).
    Worst cal by Mark Dumbtonio. 4 th and ten, no time out. Nebr has to get play called and executed. Dumbtonio calls timeout to set his defense?????
    He set his defense up alright – set them up for failure. Let Nebr get correct play call and get correct players on the field.


    Horrible time out!!!!

  4. avatar 88 says:

    this game was a terrible officiated game on both sides. The refs seriously need to be reviewed. All of the calls that people are talking about are right. So do something about it. Get rid of those refs. If they want to make themselves a part of the game, go ref basketball. But as it goes for football, be consistent and make the right call. I am not even sure what the johnny adams call was, but if you got a chance to see it, he pegged the guy and hit him hard, maybe to hard. Maybe there is a new rule you can only hit 3/4s hard. But I am just not sure how you could call it a penalty. It was not helmet to helmet. You could say it was defenseless because the guy was looking the wrong way, but when did that become a penalty. Terrible officiating game on both sides.

    go sparta.

    • avatar MSU Own Denard says:

      another bad call was when there was a 15 yard penalty on MSU for hitting martinez in the helmet on a 3rd down pass, replays showed that clearly didn’t happen. 3 very bad 15 yard penalty calls against MSU but none of it would have mattered if MSU stops NEB on 4th and 10….

    • avatar dan wengert says:

      I’m very impressed by the rather fair and objective tone from the Spartans message board. Losing a heartbreaker on two highly questionable calls has to be difficult to take. I also agree with the point that the officiating was horrible on both sides and took/gave points to each team. I loathe officials who feel the need to insert themselves into a game and this was clearly what the officials did. I have been an official. Rule #1 — call a game without changing the outcome unless you ABSOLUTELY have to. These officials should be reviewed calmly and deliberately and I would expect disciplined similarly. The PI calls on both defenses were rediculous. Let them play. This is not the NFL. Good luck to the Spartans the remainder of your season.

  5. avatar MSU Own Denard says:

    Graham, if you hear anything about these refs being disciplined, could you let us know? I know it’s too late for MSU but it will make us MSU fans feel better knowing the Big Ten office won’t put up with this.

  6. avatar Bart says:

    You call yourself a professional sports journalist. Go ahead and complain and moan about the ‘calls’ that ‘lost’ you the game. How about Damion Stafford getting shoved into your QB – and your WR actually coming off the field, smiling and laughing about that. 4th down. field goal instead of TD. Take 4 points off your score. On complaining about that hit. I don’t care if you ‘play through the play’. Blocking a defenseless player 40+ yards behind the play is bush league. Officials are taught to protect the players. With all the concussions and awareness of the debilitating and devastating effects that have come to light in recent years, not only should the flag have been thrown, that player should have gotten tossed. What outcome from that block is going to be other than tying to hurt someone. Legitimate flag. You’re then back inside the 10. THEN – and NOBODY is talking about this one, your QB is 1 yard deep in the end zone – getting pressured, and simply lobs the ball way out of bounds – with no receiver anywhere. He was inside the tackles – by rule, that’s a safety. Give us 2 more points from that spot – AND the ball back. Suddenly, the game – without the last touchdown, is 23-20 Nebraska.

    I’m tired of the ‘refs took the game from us’. Play the cards that are dealt to you. We got screwed on some calls, you got screwed on some calls. Deal with it, move on, accept that ultimately, the loss is the loss. We will not apologize for any win. Last week, I would have loved to see Nebraska for 4 quarters against Robinson. He got hurt. That didn’t happen. This world is full of ‘ifs and buts’ – and that’s exactly it. At the end of the game with no time on the clock, we had more points than Sparty – end of story.

    • avatar Graham Couch says:

      There’s no question, Bart, that Nebraska was subject to a few poor calls, as well, and a couple might have impacted the game. These against MSU, however, directly impacted the score. MSU is as much at fault as any official (and I say so, here and in my column). But an explanation as to what the official saw and why he made the call (or that he blew it) is fair to ask. … And Bart, I didn’t lose anything. I don’t play for MSU.

      • avatar Mike says:

        Bottom line is the Huskers win against MSU for the second straight year. Complain about bad calls all you want, this just shows that MSU fans lack true class. You lost, deal with it! More importantly, you need to worry about getting 6 wins so you qualify for a bowl game.

        • avatar MSU Own Denard says:

          hey mike, coming to the MSU board and ripping on MSU shows you have no class

          • avatar Mike says:

            Did I really “rip” on MSU?? By saying what? I’m just sayin…Huskers won, take it and move on. Complaining about bad calls, that happened to both teams, only shows an inabilty to accept full responsibilty for the loss. MSU isn’t 5-5 because of a couple borderline calls.

          • avatar Mike says:

            In other words, give the Huskers their due respect. They came into a hostile environment, had their backs against the wall, and somehow managed to win. Great win for the Huskers. Go Big Red!!!!!!

          • avatar MSU Owns Denard says:

            well MSU has lost 4 games by 10 pts, so yeah there were borderline calls in all those games..Neb managed to win, but had a little help…

      • avatar Bart says:

        I understand. I don’t – and as with any fan, we align ourselves with our team as ‘my’ and ‘we’ are the vernacular most fans use. You say the penalties against MSU directly impacted the game? So the blatant missed penalty that should have resulted in a 4th down and field goal instead gives MSU a 1st down and MSU scores a TD – How can that differ from ‘directly’ impacting the game to ‘might’ impact? What is the difference?

        The biggest thing – bad calls were made on both sides of the ball for both NU and MSU that impacted what otherwise was a GREAT game to watch. It is too bad, but it is what it is. I watched the game with an official and someone that is frequently on the sidelines for NU games – and he was just as shocked at some of the calls (or lack thereof) on both sides. I find it interesting that 3 of NU’s conference wins are by a combined 8 points and 4 of MSU’s losses have come at a combined 10 points. Switch those games – MSU is 9-1 and Nebraska is 4-5. Two good football teams – down to the wire. Had NU lost the game, you would see the same comments on Husker threads. Anyway, I do know that this is one of these games that now makes this an interesting game whenever these 2 face each other. Too bad it isn’t an every year thing – as how both teams played on the field, it was an amazingly physical game and a ton of fun to watch!!!

    • avatar MSU Own Denard says:

      Bart, no receiver has to be anywhere, as long as the ball goes past the line of scrimmage, which it did, it is a legal play and wouldn’t have been a safety…

      • avatar Bart says:

        Denard – I may have to apologize on that – as I need to check that rule. I was aware of that for any grounding, but thought there was something in the rules regarding specific circumstances in the End Zone. I retract my statement on that – as I had thought that regardless of the LOS, from the endzone, any act of grounding results in a safety.

    • avatar cobs says:

      Easy Bart, The Spartans played one heck of a game and could of very easily won that game. Husker fans complain about the same things when they lose. I’m glad the Huskers won, but in the 2nd half the Spartans outplayed the Huskers up till about the last 5 min. Good luck for the rest of the season Spartan fans.

      • avatar Bart says:

        Cobs – Thanks for that. I’m actually trying to prove a point with everything I’ve said. You hit the nail on the head. Husker fans would have (and trust me – HAVE a lot more than Sparty fans have when the roles have been switched). Husker fans are far more critical. Yes. The point I’m trying to make is that, bad calls aside, it was a HELL OF A GAME to watch. I love the intensity that MSU plays with. That defense is amazing. MSU is I’m guessing about 6-8 plays this year from being 9-1 – and is really an impressive team and here’s hoping the bounces go your way the rest of the way out!!!!

  7. avatar Randy Langemeier says:

    I am a die hard NE fan and I give credit to MSU for a hard fought game. Both sides had things happen that could have changed the game, that is football. Nebraska fans wish MSU the best in the next two games. This was a game that could have gone either way, we know how MSU fans feel as we have been there as well in the past years

  8. avatar Eric Conrad says:

    The officials were way too involved in this game and bad calls emerged against both teams but more bad against MSU. MSU has taken major steps backwards in managing games and the clock. On 4th and 2 they should have allowed play clock to go to zero (they snapped it with 8 seconds) or at least lined up to go for it which may have prompted Nebraska to jump offsides. It us the little things that MSU coaching simply missed all year. Last year they did not. Was Cousins actually the coach and the star quarterback?

    • avatar AAsparty says:

      yeah, what’s going on with Dantonio and the clocks these days? They had the Cobs third and 8 pinned back on their own 15-20 yard line (I was sitting at the opposite end, so I didn’t get a good look at the spot) with 55 ticks left on the clock in the first half and he lets the clock run down to 20 seconds?? I thought Perles was back for a minute there, at least make them punt you the ball….

  9. avatar AGSpartyFan says:

    Well said, Graham. Not the only reason(s) MSU lost, but then maybe the boys in green don’t need to make a late first down, or stop on 4th down if the game is called correctly.

    Hoping this is motivation to crush NU and Minny, and play a nice bowl game in FLA against a solid team like Texas A&M…

  10. avatar gogreen90 says:

    Do not mean to take anything from the Cornhuskers, they made one more play and deserved to win. However, I would certainly say that MSU got the worse of the bad calls.
    The late hit out of bounds called on NU was not a good call, but at least there was a reason the ref called it. He saw the NU player hit someone 4 yards out of bounds. He was watching the ball and did not see the push. Another official should have corrected it, but at least the official who called it did not totally blow it – he made the correct call based on what he saw.
    I recall two PI calls on NU that were questionable. In one case it was clearly PI, but it was questionable whether the ball was catchable. Judgment call could go either way. The PI call made on the ball thrown to Sims was questionable from whether there was a enough contact to call and whether the ball could be caught. Again there was some contact so it is a judgment call.
    The personal foul on Adams was just a fantom call which was plain wrong and took 7 points off the board. If there is such a rule as not blocking behind the play (couldn’t find one in the rule book) there is 100% absolute proof that in this case the receiver could have made a play because Adams made it all the way down the field before the touchdown was scored. No need to speculate about whether the receiver was out of the play or not given the result.
    The PI on Denard again was a completely phantom call. It was not one where the ref made the wrong judgment he simply blew the call by being in the wrong spot.
    Spartans had too many chances to win the game to say that NU didn’t deserve to win, but that does not translate to saying that both teams got the same breaks.

  11. avatar Stategrad '71 says:

    Interesting discussion from both points of view. I can name several games where MSU benefited from shaky calls out here at Spartan Stadium and walked away with victories. On a slightly different topic I am embarrassed by the hot dog antics of Gholston and Adams after they make a good play. I would like to see the coaches (the lyin’ Narduzzi) address this. Also, year in and year out State commits and inordinate number of personal fouls. Why?

    • avatar MSU Own Denard says:

      yeah right, MSU is the benefit of bad calls all the time, what in the world are you talking about? the lying narduzzi? you should just quit watching msu football. 3 personal foul calls against nebraska weren’t even penalties, bad refereeing

      • avatar AAsparty says:

        that’s Mike Ahern, Jake Mountain, etc, whatever he calls himself these days, doing some trolling- he (they) is the only one that uses “lyin Narduzzi”, still don’t know what that means…

  12. avatar MSU Own Denard says:

    Hey Graham, remember a few years ago, a whole officiating crew got fired that did the WMU-Purdue game? That’s why I think discipline could happen to the officials for the MSU-NEB game. Also, did you ever hear what happened to these guys?


  13. avatar denard owns msu says:

    Hey Graham, will you get this clown some tissues? I don’t see anyone crying when those bad calls go scuMSUckers ways!!

    • avatar MSU Owns Denard says:

      Hey tool box, Denard = 1-3 vs MSU, looks like scUMsucker has issues, go back to the MGOBLOW board and talk about how you guys aren’t going to win the big ten title again under dreadlocks, HAHAHAHAH

  14. avatar denard owns msu says:

    Whats the matter that time of the month? Sorry your rosebowl dreams are gone. It was cute how you losers were still holding on last week, thinking scuMSUckers actually had a chance!

  15. avatar denard owns msu says:

    Denard is 1-2 dumb a++ !! Why don’t you leave sports talk to the men!

    • avatar MSU Owns Denard says:

      hey loser, he’s 1-3, can’t help his first year was on the bench behind that loser forcier, can’t even beat that loser white boy out, embarrassing! now go back and hold hands with CWEBB !!!! thanks for playing gibot

  16. avatar CWebb says:

    u guys r pathetic. No one comes to your games. Players r thugs, and your coaches mouth off more than your players. U are an irrelevant program.

    • avatar MSU Owns Denard says:

      u scUM fans are pathetic. No on goes to your message board. Coaches r thugs and your fans mouth off more than your players. U and your team are an irrlevant.

    • avatar Ghost of Biggie says:

      Sounds you’re looking in the mirror describing yourself. Go call time out. Oh, that’s right, you don’t have anymore.

    • avatar denard owns msu says:

      You nailed it CWebb!! these clowns can’t handle the truth!

      • avatar MSU Owns Denard says:

        you nailed it Ghose of Biggie ! these scUM Fans (who’d rather be here than the MGOBLOW board) can’t handle the truth !

        • avatar denard owns msu says:

          Everyone needs a good laugh now and then! It get funnier here everyday, at least you clowns finally gave up on the rosebowl dreams! Too much reality on M blogs.

          • avatar MSU Owns Denard says:

            yeah on the MGOBLOW board they’re still talking about how they should have beat ALABAMA !! HAHAHHAHHAHHHH

  17. avatar *** says:

    Maybe it is time that college football had an instant replay “challenge” rule like in the NFL where bad calls can be reviewed. They have the technology why not
    use it to make the game better?

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