The Miami Hurricanes marched into Durham, beat a first place Duke team, and kept their faint ACC Coastal chances alive.

They did so with an interim head coach.

They did so with a backup QB.

They did so with an intramural caliber defensive coordinator.

They did so while mourning the death of a player’s mother who was very close to the entire team.

They did so despite an officiating advantage that saw the Canes whistled for 23 penalties for 194 yards while Duke was only called for five penalties for 41 yards.

They did so on one of the greatest plays in college football history.

And yet the narrative is the officiating. Apparently, Miami was gifted this game in one of the great sports injustices.

There were less people upset when a phantom pass interference penalty handed Ohio State a National Championship.

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Yes, ACC Officiating Blows

We’ve all seen the play. And the ensuing confusion.

There were missed calls here, but the biggest mistake they made was not communicating properly. The head referee himself was confused. There are three issues to deal with here:

  1. A penalty by Miami would overturn the play.
  2. If Miami had a knee down, the game would be over at that spot.
  3. If Miami lateraled a ball forward, then that would be a penalty and the game would be over.

The confusion starts when the head referee announces that:

  1. There is a block in the back on Miami.
  2. There will be an untimed down.
  3. The play is under review.

Okay, fair enough, but he never announced the number of the player that made the alleged penalty, adding to the confusion. So on the ESPNU coverage, we were treated to “find a penalty,” where every block was examined and scrutinized on zoom, an impossible standard for any game official to live up to.

Had the number been announced, the block would have been looked at by the game coverage, determined to be legal, and everyone would have moved on.

ESPNU’s studio show, after the game, clarified that the officials huddled and determined that the block that was penalized was legal, which was the correct call. They had missed a separate block in the back that was never called or considered because it can’t be changed from a non-penalty to a penalty after the fact (unless Ohio State is about to lose a national championship game).

The mistake the ref made was not announcing to the crowd that the block was determined to be legal and that the flag had been picked up, before the review. Had he done that, it would have avoided a lot of confusion.

So, with no penalty (which again, no one at home was even aware had been nullified), the officials are reviewing two things: (1) the laterals, and (2) whether a knee was down. The laterals were all clearly legal, so that’s done.

The refs spent several minutes reviewing the play, and only one moment was close. Mark Walton’s knee appeared to be down as he was lateraling the ball. But the camera angles were also very poor. Later, you can see still shots of the knee down with the ball appearing to still being cradled in his hand. But this was not available to the replay official (more on this later).

The one clearly missed call was that Sheldrick Redwine made a block in the back. That should have been called. Other than that, there is nothing egregious here.

So that’s what the national hubbub is about? One missed block in the back?

Keep in mind that this was in a game where the refs called EIGHTEEN more penalties on Miami than on Duke.

On Duke’s last touchdown drive alone, the refs whistled the Canes for three pass interference calls, two of which were completely ridiculous, one of which wiped out the game-sealing interception by Artie Burns. Then, Duke scored a touchdown which certainly appeared to be short of the end zone. With six seconds left, if ruled correctly, the clock runs out.

Ironically, the refs reviewed that Duke score, but Wallace Wade Stadium doesn’t have a camera on the goal line. So a non-TD stood up because there was no conclusive evidence. The lack of cameras gaveth, but then they tooketh away when there was also no conclusive evidence that Walton’s knee was down on the subsequent kick return.

The general focus on the officiating on just one play is always spurious. Miami spent 3.999999 quarters getting totally eviscerated by one sided officiating, and then caught a break on the last play. That’s what actually happened. 

The Play

It’s unfortunate the focus is on the officiating, because the play itself is a marvel of execution from Miami and lack there of from Duke.

The Canes did an amazing job never lateraling the ball forward. They also were able to get horizontal and go sideways multiple times. This is all extremely difficult.

But Duke contributed greatly by chasing the ball. The goal for the Blue Devils on this play is to prevent Miami from scoring a TD. At one point, the laterals pushed Miami back inside their own 5-yard line. 95 yards from where they needed to be. And this is where Duke blew it.

As Miami advanced from inside the 5 out to the 10, the Blue Devils have seven players at or inside the Canes 25-yard line, and on the left half of the field. Duke’s coverage unit lost their shape.

If Miami can reverse the ball, an admittedly difficult task, the numbers actually tilt in their favor. There was no reason for Duke to pursue with this many players this deep into Miami territory. It actually opened up the field.

Then, Miami was fortunate that the ball found Dallas Crawford, a high school QB, and he threw a strike to Corn Elder. At this point, Duke was able to scramble back and get six guys in position to make a play. David Njoku wiped out two with one of the all-time great blocks.

From there, the Canes actually had players in position to block, Corn Elder made one tackler miss, and it was over.

Unfortunately, the focus was taken off the play itself, because this was stellar execution, and also a clinic from Duke on how not to defend a lateral play. This was actually a great play.

It’s not like the Canes were rewarded by a bad call after their WR idiotically dropped a pass in the end zone in overtime of a national championship game on 4th down. But that would NEVER happen…

The Fallout

Naturally, the national media took a measured approach. They rationally stated that while a knee might have been down, and there was a single missed block in the back, that there are over a hundred plays in a game, that 18 more penalties were whistled on Miami, and that to focus on one play would be ridiculous in that context.

Of course that didn’t happen. They lost their collective shit.

Look at this SEC-slurping douchebag

Did you watch the entire end of the game? Or the last play. Because Miami first made a game sealing INT, followed by tackling Duke’s QB short of the end zone with a running clock and six seconds left. But you watched what exactly? One play.

Wonder what his opinion is on clearly incorrect pass interference being called five seconds after a game is over? He’s somehow in favor of that. “Better to make a late and wrong call than no call at all, if the result is Ohio State winning.”

Oh, and there was only one block in the back. But I guess at Ohio State, they didn’t teach him how to count to 1, so that could be “countless” to him.

But we save the best for last. Look at this guy…

Yes, suspend them! For three games!

Why three games arbitrarily?!?!?!

Why not?!?!? We’re outraged! Suspend them all! Nuke the place!

But wait, why stop there…

YES! DO IT! Take the win away.

When the kids land in Miami, tell them they lost! That’ll teach them to play through the whistle!

Let’s establish the unbelievably moronic precedent of overturning the outcome of games several hours after the fact after game film has been over-analyzed!

WHY? CAUSE WILBON HAS HAD ENOUGH!!!

Reggie Bush pushes Matt Leinart into the end zone…30 FOR 30 PRESENTS TROJAN WAR.

Colorado is given FIVE DOWNS against Missouri, and wins a National Championship because of it…no biggie. CROWN THAT TEAM!

Cal runs through the Stanford band, media, a tuba player….GREATEST PLAY EVER!

Miami beats Duke in an ACC Coastal suckfest with very few consequences (Miami still needs a miracle to win the Coastal, Duke still controls their own destiny)…REVERSE THE OUTCOME! OFFICIALS ARE OUT OF CONTROL! HOW CAN THIS BE!?!?!?

This is was the coming together of the unholy sports trinity: (1) hot take sports, (2) anti-Miami bias, and (3) sports douchebaggery.

This is what sets Wilbon off? Keep in mind, he wrote this piece of crap when Sean Taylor was murdered:

I wasn’t surprised in the least when I heard the news Monday morning that Sean Taylor had been shot in his home by an intruder. Angry? Yes. Surprised? Not even a little. It was only in June 2006 that Taylor, originally charged with a felony, pleaded no contest to assault and battery charges after brandishing a gun during a battle over who took his all-terrain vehicles in Florida. After that, an angry crew pulled up on Taylor and his boys and pumped at least 15 bullets into his sport-utility vehicle. So why would anybody be surprised? Had it been Shawn Springs, I would have been stunned. But not Sean Taylor.

[…]

Coincidence? We have no idea, not yet anyway. Could have been a random act, a break-in, something that happens every day in America, something that could happen to any one of us no matter how safe we think our neighborhood is. Could have been just that. But would it surprise me if it was more than that, if there was a distinct reason Taylor was sleeping with a machete under his bed? A machete. Even though his attorney and friend Richard Sharpstein says his instincts tell him “this was not a murder or a hit,” would it stun me if Taylor was specifically targeted? Not one bit.

It turns out that Taylor was murdered by home invaders, on accident. They expected no one to be home, and when Taylor surprised them, their gun went off, severing Taylor’s femoral artery. It literally could have happened to anyone.

The irony was that old hot take over here was so tripping over himself to get his victim blaming out there, that he didn’t do even a little research to figure out that Palmetto Bay, where Taylor lived, is not the ghetto or the hood.

I find that blaming a murder victim publicly, and then spending years refusing to come off your position, apologize, or even explain yourself (Wilbon refused to appear in Sean Taylor’s A Football Life) is outrageous.

But he has a problem with a missed block in the back call? 

For years, we’ve observed horrific ACC officiating. For years, no one outside of ACC country has cared. Yet here, it’s all of a sudden a problem? That last play won’t even make a top 10 list of missed calls in that game.

The ACC themselves, chimed in, and hilariously suspended the crew, although their justification for the suspension is hollow. There were four points of officiating on the last play that the ACC discussed:

  • That Mark Walton’s knee was down and the replay official should have overturned the play.
  • That Sheldrick Redwine made a block in the back that was missed.
  • That the officials CORRECTLY picked up the block in the back flag, but failed to communicate it out (as I described above).
  • That a Miami player ran out on the field without his helmet on. Of note, they also point out that this WOULD NOT HAVE IMPACTED THE TOUCHDOWN since it is a dead ball foul and would have been enforced as such.

So, there were three failed calls, one of which didn’t impact the actual TD, and 2 of which would have resulted in the game being over or an untimed down, depending on the call.

The ACC did themselves a disservice.

First, they threw the replay official under the bus. He didn’t have the camera angles we saw later and has wide latitude to make that call in Miami’s favor because the burden of proof lies on the opposite side of that call. This just leaves us with one missed block in the back.

Second, they failed to contextualize the play or comment on ALL the missed calls of the game. If you’re going to blame the replay official for not using replay angles he didn’t have, why not also point out that he didn’t overturn Duke’s last TD? If you’re going to criticize the officials for missed calls, why not point out that they blew a pass interference call on Miami’s game winning INT on the previous drive?

While you’re throwing the officials under the bus, why not go ahead and do it fully, and point out that while the last play shouldn’t have stood, had the officials not missed earlier calls, we wouldn’t have gotten to that last play?

That the calls were missed on the last play, but if the game had been officiated correctly over the last 2 drives, Miami would have won 24-19?

Because the purpose of this wasn’t justice, it wasn’t getting the call right, it wasn’t concern over the “standard” of ACC officiating (I’m assuming they’ve watched ACC officiating before, this is par for the course).

It was a response to media outrage, and rather than combat the narrative, defending their league and the result (which was fair but inaccurate), the ACC chose to throw the national media a bone.

It was gutless, but we should expect nothing less from a conference that at times seems to only serve the interest of tobacco road to the detriment of the other members. It’s hard to imagine the B1G or SEC ever throwing their officials under the bus while simultaneously not acknowledging other plays in the same game that would have made the play in question unnecessary. The ACC fancies itself the equal of those conferences, yet they continue to conduct themselves in a manner that says otherwise.

Even in doing that, with the unconvincing replay argument, we’re really talking about one missed call that would have changed the game. A single missed block in the back happens ALL THE TIME. This isn’t even noteworthy.

But that didn’t stop another round of hot takeathon, as the same people who didn’t watch the game didn’t even read the press release either, because apparently the ACC confirmed “MULTIPLE” illegal blocks in the back (they didn’t). 

If this week was about anything, it was about Miami turning the corner back into what it once was. Gone is the tie.

And on Saturday, the Canes won a road game at a ranked team for the first time since 2009. The “cloud” is lifting.

With it came the screaming and tears from the national media, as they predictably took the side of the ranked, home team who was cheated for the entire game over the plucky underdog dealing with tragedy off the field and an interim coach.

I love it. We live off your tears and your hate.

We’ve seen your fear. Fear that we’ll hire a good coach. That’s why you talk down our job, rip the facilities incessantly, just hoping to create a narrative that prevents the good hire and results in another Al Golden.

You can keep telling us that we’re unrealistic. Keep calling our players thugs, even though we graduate our players and rarely have off field incidents. Keep talking down our attendance while Duke played a home game on campus as a ranked team and didn’t fill their stadium. Keep talking down our facilities even though they’re upgraded. Keep losing your mind on the rare occasion we catch an officiating break.

You can even keep calling us irrelevant. Jokes on you, though. You just spent your entire Sunday whining about an “irrelevant” 5-3 team with an interim coach just playing out the string.

As for us? We’ll keep being Miami. With all that means and implies. Whether it be true or not.

We wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s a Canes thing, you wouldn’t understand.

Follow Vishnu on Twitter (@VRP2003)