UGA Football

The role officiating had in the UGA-Alabama national championship

Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm completed 16 of 32 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm completed 16 of 32 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The Telegraph

Ninety-nine times out of 100, it's not a good idea to belabor the officiating in a game. It usually comes across as sour grapes.

But even the most neutral, objective observer couldn't help but come away from Alabama's 26-23 win over Georgia in the national championship game with one conclusion: the Big Ten officiating crew that worked the game had a bad night.

Upon re-watching the game, there were at least four blown officiating calls that didn't go Georgia's way. Georgia fans, primarily on Twitter and Facebook, voiced a range of frustration over the calls. SB Nation posted GIFs of each of the plays, which only further outraged the Georgia fan base.

But what effect did these calls actually have in deciding the outcome of Alabama's victory over Georgia?

Let's analyze:

The offside that wasn't

Simmons.jpg
Tyler Simmons, at the bottom of the screen, was incorrectly called offside as the ball was being snapped on this play. Screenshot

Alabama received a huge break in the game early in the third quarter. Tyler Simmons was called for an offside penalty on a play he blocked a punt on. It was fourth-and-8 at the Alabama 24, and Georgia was set to take over deep in the opposing team's territory. Instead, a 5-yard penalty was assessed, allowing the Crimson Tide to attempt another punt.

On replay, however, Simmons was not offside. He timed the snap perfectly, albeit with a flinch that came just after the snap. It's likely Simmons' hesitation threw off the official, which resulted in the flag. But that was a big moment to get wrong, considering if Georgia takes over where the ball was recovered, it's possible a 13-0 lead turns into either a 16-0 or 20-0 lead.

That said, the correct call would have been to flag Alabama for a false start. While the officiating crew incorrectly flagged Simmons, it missed three Alabama players flinching before the snap. Therefore, the correct call would have been a dead ball, false-start penalty to force the Crimson Tide to punt on fourth-and-13.

The missed facemask

Swift facemask.jpg
D'Andre Swift had his facemask grabbed on this play, which did not get called. Screenshot

Following the incorrectly administered offside call, Georgia began its next possession on its own 29-yard line. The Bulldogs immediately began to move backward. First, Nick Chubb was tackled for a loss of three yards. D'Andre Swift caught a pass and was dropped for a loss of eight.

On the next play, third-and-21 from the Georgia 25, Swift took a carry and ran for four yards. But on this play, Swift had his facemask pulled by defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs. It was an easy call to make, but no flag was thrown. This was tough for Georgia because it would have been first-and-10 at the Georgia 40. If the call is made and Georgia doesn't pick up another first down, the field is at least flipped on the ensuing punt. Instead, Georgia punted deeper in its own territory, and Alabama took over on its own 44. The Crimson Tide scored a touchdown on the subsequent drive.

The missed personal foul

Wilson and Fromm.jpg
Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson shoved Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm's head after making a tackle. Screenshot

Georgia was up 20-10 late in the third quarter when Jake Fromm ran to his right. He was chased down by Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson, who threw him to the ground hard. It was a tough, clean and legal tackle.

That is, until Wilson started standing up.

For no apparent reason, Wilson shoved Fromm's head after the play in a manner that should have resulted in a personal foul penalty. This reporter saw it happen live from the press box. It was astonishing to see no official on the field notice this. And this was a big no-call for Alabama. Georgia was on the Alabama 39-yard line at the time. A 15-yard penalty would have moved Georgia up to the 24-yard line. This would have put Georgia in at least field goal range. Instead, Georgia got just one yard on third down and was forced to pooch punt, after showing a potential fake, with backup Brice Ramsey.

The missed false start

Najee.jpg
Alabama running back Najee Harris moved just before the snap on the game-tying touchdown. This was not called. Screenshot

Trailing by seven with 3:56 to play in the game, Alabama faced a fourth-and-4 from the Georgia 7-yard line. Instead of trying a field goal, Alabama head coach Nick Saban elected to go for it. The play turned into a touchdown, with Tua Tagovailoa buying just enough time to hit Calvin Ridley in the end zone.

But before the play, running back Najee Harris motioned to the far left of the formation. Before the ball was snapped, Harris began moving forward off of the line of scrimmage. Now, this movement happened maybe a split second before the actual ball was snapped, so this is a little more understandable as to how an official would miss the call. Still, the correct call on the play would have been to back up Alabama five more yards. And if that happens, Alabama is facing a fourth-and-9 from the 12. A decision to kick a field goal instead of going for the touchdown may have crept into the coaching staff's mind in that event.

In conclusion

Of these four plays, only the missed personal foul and the missed false start had a direct effect on the scoreboard. While Simmons wasn't offside, three Alabama players moved early, which should have blown the play dead. And while the missed facemask would have kept a Georgia drive alive, the Bulldogs were still well out of field goal range.

But the missed personal foul could have cost Georgia three points. The missed false start could have taken four points away from Alabama — or even seven based on how place-kicker Andy Pappanastos performed during the game. In most games, an officiating crew will mess up. It becomes unfortunate when the final score is potentially affected as a result.

That stated, Georgia still had its chances to win the game in spite of the bad calls. Namely, in overtime, the Bulldogs should not have given up a 41-yard touchdown on second-and-26. And that fact has to be more pain-inducing for everyone associated with the program than thinking back on the bad calls alone.

  Comments