I realize- that most will ask if I want some "whine with all that cheese"
I realize- that several will try to convince me to be happy that we got this far
I realize- that even more will tell me not to be so petty and simply "get over it"
I realize- that a few will question my football knowledge & label me a Kmart Spartan
I realize- that a lot will tell me that I should just be happy it was such a good game
I realize- that many will lecture about how to be a "good sport" and lose with dignity
I realize- that nearly all will tell me that I'm simply flat-out dead wrong
Finally, I realize- that I DO NOT CARE!
Yes, I'm going to relive, rehash and replay the play that changed the game because I felt that we were wrongfully cheated.
4th & 3 and 1:55 left in the game.
Ball set at the 25 1/2 yard line.
(The replay as shown on TV)
As you all know the outcome, Isiah Lewis was flagged for "Running Into The Kicker" despite Keyshawn Martin returning the ball inside the Wisconsin five yard line which was called back giving Wisconsin the five necessary yards for a first down needed to ice a victory.
A sad ending to this story, right? WRONG. Some of you may have read something similar on Red Cedar message board but I have a very strong opinion about this.
I was always under the impression that the penalty called "Running Into The Kicker" meant to penalize ANY contact whatsoever from a player into the kicker. So I found the official NCAA rule of what constituted "Running Into The Kicker." As the rule reads, it has 10 separate clauses and for brevity sake, I've included the three most relevant refutations as they pertain to the MSU/Wisco "Puntergate" (Yes, I'm coining that term!) play at the end of the game.
My comments to each of the points below in bold.
Per NCAA rules Article 16.1
Clause 3. Incidental contact with a kicker or holder is not a foul.
The replay illustrates Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman's leg being grazed by MSU's Isiah Lewis; at no point is there any contact to his body that would cause a player to fall in that way. *IMPORTANT* Notice how the rule does NOT state, "No contact whatsoever is allowed" but rather the word "incidental" is used-- in the same way the pass interference rule is written. This is exactly why those who don't understand football will chant "boos" at referees when their receiver is "lightly touched" by an opposing defender and no flag is called.
Clause 5. When a defensive player’s contact against the kicker or holder is caused by an opponent’s block (legal or illegal), there is no foul for running into or roughing.
Again, as the replay would clearly show, Wisconsin right side upback #96 Beau Allen make a perfectly legal block on MSU's Isiah Lewis. This block/forearm push on Lewis (while moving full speed) greatly affected his trajectory course, causing the incidental contact with the punter. Again, this rule does not state that an "opponent must directly block the defensive player into kicker." The rule only states that the actual contact made came as a result of the block -including- a player's angle-of-attack.
Clause 8b. A kicker or holder simulating being roughed or run into by a defensive player commits an unsportsmanlike act (A.R. 9-1-16-V).
It's not hard to dissect what sports fans commonly refer to as "The Flop" most commonly associated with soccer players. Once again, I refer you to the replay of the contact made and the voluntary spin-fall that ensued. I also couldn't help but notice Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman's post-contact reactionary smile while beating his unathletic chest coming off the field... or simply read his post game locker room comments where he actually ADMITS to his flop.
Now, having presented with an overwhelming body of evidence, there's also the unwritten rule in all sports: In ANY major game (especially a championship) towards the end of a close game-- refs must swallow their whistles unless a play is so glaringly obvious so as they are forced to make the call. Players should decide games, not officials. I'm not quoting some weird conspiracy theory or goofy camera angle. I simply referring to the rules as written.
I realize this "Running Into The Kicker" penalty is meant to protect defenseless players (which is debatable) however, this is simply unacceptable for referees (who should know this rule distinction) to make a call that dramatically altered the outcome of what otherwise was a great championship game.
Any journalist, commentator, analyst or so-called "expert" that says otherwise is either too lazy to read the rule or blatantly misinformed.
Your Humble Servant,
-Daniel J Stepanian-Bennett