Two factors played into the second review of an onside kick in last week’s Kansas State/Oklahoma football game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Following the game, a 37-31 win for the Sooners, Greg Burks, the Big 12 Conference’s football officiating coordinator, said in a statement that one factor was “late-arriving information” that came in that changed the initial call, which had been a successful onside kick, and recovery, by K-State’s Ty Zentner.
The “late-arriving information” was another TV angle, The Mercury learned Tuesday.
“The TV production did not provide replay with angles at the point of the kick when the play was initially reviewed,” Burks wrote in an email, provided via Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda.
The overturned call came at a key juncture in the contest: Moments before, the Wildcats scored a touchdown to cut the Sooners’ lead to 27-17 with 3:19 remaining in the third quarter. After Zentner’s recovery, K-State was set to begin the subsequent drive at its 36-yard line.
The play immediately was reviewed to investigate whether the ball had gone 10 yards before Zentner recovered it.
He was in the clear.
Not for long, though, as Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley wanted a review of the review; from talking to members of his staff, he believed that Zentner had inadvertently kicked it twice, which would be an illegal touching penalty.
Riley was right. After the second review, officials ruled that Zentner had doubled kicked the ball. Oklahoma was awarded possession. Though K-State picked off a pass three plays later, the damage had been done.
Multiple veteran officials were perplexed that a second review of the play had been permitted in the first place.
“I’ve got to tell you, what’s really interesting about this is the rulebook is really pretty clear that when a play has been reviewed, then the decision has been made,” Mike Pereira, the rules expert for Fox, said during the network’s broadcast. “A challenge really can’t be issued after that point. So that has to be another discussion now. Replay’s job was to look at both aspects, (the 10 yards and) that touching after the ball had bounced, but the rulebook is clear: once a play has gone to review and a decision has been made, a coach is not eligible to challenge.”
Pereira said he expected there “to be lots of discussion” about the second review in the days and weeks to come.
“Here’s the issue: Once a play goes to review, then it is up to the replay official to review all aspects of the play,” he said. “So you’ve got to look at everything involved that could be reviewable. So the rulebook states that once a decision has been made in review, then a coach cannot challenge after that point.”
Terry McAulay, a former NFL referee who now explains rules during college football and NFL games on NBC, chimed in on Twitter.
“The intent of the rule regarding ‘new information’ was to address the situation where new video became available to the replay official which was not available during the initial review,” McAulay wrote. “It is not intended to allow them to re-evaluate the play until they get it right.”
This would be correct if that was what happened. But if, as has been reported, they allowed the OU coach to challenge to initiate the re-review, then that is not allowed. If so, they are, at a minimum, playing fast and loose with the facts in their statement. https://t.co/6MdtebjoIK— Terry McAulay (@SNFRules) October 2, 2021
This is what seems to be conveniently missing from the Big 12 statement. https://t.co/EO7s5zqPiA— Terry McAulay (@SNFRules) October 3, 2021
The intent of the rule regarding “new information” was to address the situation where new video became available to the replay official which was not available during the initial review. It is not intended to allow them to re-evaluate the play until they get it right.— Terry McAulay (@SNFRules) October 3, 2021
The Big 12 declined to comment on the former officials’ criticism.
Instead, Burks noted the second factor: why two reviews took place.
“The original stoppage focused on legal touching on the recovery of the kick,” he wrote. “The coaches challenge was allowed after the play was reviewed as it focused on a different aspect of the play.”
That’s the same explanation provided to K-State athletics director Gene Taylor, who on Monday spoke with Edward Stewart, the Big 12’s executive associate commissioner for football.
“He said it was reviewable a second time due to the fact that they only focused on the 10 yards (the first time),” Taylor told The Mercury in a phone interview. “Then, when (Oklahoma’s) staff pointed out that it was a double kick or illegal touch, (Riley) was apparently allowed to request to have a second look. That’s what they did, and that’s when they determined that, yes, it was an illegal touch. Because he requested to look at a different aspect of the play, he was allowed to request that.”
Taylor conceded he was “frustrated at the time” of the play.
“Now 24 hours later, you appreciate them at least giving you an answer and talking to you about it and walking you through the process of what they’re allowed to do and what they’re not allowed to do,” he said. “At the end of the day, the call was right. It was a double kick or illegal touch, whatever rule you want to use. But at the time, it took a long time, it was a momentum swing, you think you’ve recovered it — all that stuff. So there were a lot of questions then. But once they talk you through it, you’re like, ‘OK, thanks for the information.’”
Taylor also said that Stewart explained the discrepancy between Pereira and McAulay’s denunciation of the second review and what actually occurred.
“What the experts will say is that they should have reviewed every aspect of the play, right? That’s the first thing they should have done,” Taylor said. “Because they didn’t, then that opened the door for (Oklahoma’s) coach to ask that question. If they would have reviewed every aspect of the play, from my understanding, they would have said, ‘No, we reviewed double touching. We looked at 10 yards. We looked at everything.’ Then he would not have been able to ask for another review. But because they apparently only looked at the 10 yards, when he asked for the double touching look, that’s where the confusion was.”
Taylor said he also saw Pereira’s comment that officials should have reviewed the entire play, not just one aspect.
“Apparently, that didn’t happen,” Taylor said, “so that’s what opened the door (for another review).”
Tough as it might have been to stomach at the time — and still is, to some extent, given the game-changing nature of the reversal — Taylor said he was pleased with the Big 12’s prompt response.
“I value our relationship with the league, and I respect that once they make a call, they at least will have a conversation with you,” he said. “They don’t ignore you. They get back to you. I appreciate that. That’s the way it should be.”
Taylor also found a bit of cruel irony in the situation, especially given the opponent.
Two years ago, Oklahoma staged an epic fourth-quarter rally. After falling behind 48-23 with 12:54 to play, the Sooners scored the next 18 points to cut the deficit to 48-41. The Sooners then converted an onside kick of their own with less than two minutes remaining. But just like last week, that call was reviewed. And just like last week, that call was reversed because of an illegal touching infraction.
K-State took over, ran out the clock and stunned No. 3 Oklahoma as fans stormed the field in Manhattan.
“So sometimes, what goes around comes around,” Taylor said. “Not that it makes (last week) any less frustrating, but if you remember that 2019 game, we might not have won. But at the time, (Saturday was) frustrating. You had the momentum. You have a chance, if you go down and score there, it’s a 27-24 ballgame. There was a lot of energy.”