Questionable calls in Happy Valley show it’s time for centralized instant replay

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Ohio State managed to escape State College last night with a double overtime victory over Penn State. The victory came with the help of some questionable officiating

Ohio State’s Vonn Bell picked off a pass from Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg on the first offensive series of the game. The interception was questionable enough to call for an instant replay review by the Big Ten officials. Video of the play has even Ohio State faithful believing the Buckeyes received a gift early on in the game. The video replay process was hindered in Beaver Stadium by the lack of the proper replay feeds being available for the replay official.

John O’Neill, who was the on-field official in State College, confirmed after the game to a pool reporter the replay was not thoroughly reviewed.

“The play technically was not thoroughly reviewed due to some technical difficulties with the equipment,” O’Neill said after the game. Asked if there are any provisions to receive any other replay feeds available in the stadium (perhaps the one showing on the national broadcast or the one airing on those big fancy HD scoreboards in the stadium), O’Neill said that was not possible.

“The feeds that the replay team looks at are the feeds you get at home,” O’Neill explained. “We can’t create our own rules. The replay rules are clear that we have to use the equipment provided. So, and the team reviewed what they had.”

Ohio State ended up turning that questionable interception into a touchdown for an early 7-0 lead. Ohio State also successfully kicked a 49-yard field goal later in the first half, although the kick appeared to be kicked two seconds after the play clock had expired. Again, this was easily captured on TV but missed on the field of play. O’Neill explained there was no review of that call.

Replay official Tom Fiedler went a little more in-depth in explaining why the field goal was not reviewed, saying the play is not a reviewable play.

“That is not reviewable in terms of when the ball is snapped in relationship to the zeros on the clock,” Fiedler said to the pool reporter after the game.

It was a bad night for the officials, who also awarded each team a timeout in the fourth quarter without either team asking for one, missing what looked to be an eye gouging by a Penn State player on J.T. Barrett as well as a crucial false start on Ohio State on third down.

Bad penalties and missed calls happen in every game. Every conference has officials that will have errors magnified in today’s modern world of instant reaction and multiple viewing angles and so on. But there is zero reason for an instant replay official not to have any feed it needs to do its job in today’s world, and there is no excuse for any one of the officials on the field to miss the play clock expiring.

Whether the Big Ten will address these controversial calls remains to be seen. Last week we saw the Big 12 go on record defending its replay officials for attempting to correct errors on the field in a Baylor-West Virginia game. If nothing else, perhaps it is becoming more likely conferences will begin to think about moving all instant replays to a neutralized location, as is done in the NHL, Major League Baseball and he NFL. Power conferences like the Big Ten have the ability to do just that, and there will never be an issue regarding video feed if they do. Every conference should at least consider it as a possibility.