~ ~

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

VIDEO: Spartan Allegiance to "The Flag"

It's been a few days since Saturday night's championship game and since then, I've had some time to reflect about this loss... a loss that hurt like no other. I've come to a few realizations...

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

Go Green!


  1. Sorry to hear there was so much discretion available to the officials that was not used on that penalty call. Serious questions also about the "offsides" against Worthy a few minutes earlier.

    Not so sure Keyshawn had a catch on the third-down pass. Also not clear why we threw a 20-yard pass when we needed six yards and it looked like Cousins had room to run.

    Would have loved to see a penalty call for pass interference by either one of our guys on the 4th-down heave to the six-yard-line...but neither of our guys was sharp enough to interfere. Remember, in the college game, pass interference is NOT a spot foul, so they would have had a first down around the 30 instead of first-and-goal. Oh well. Would have loved a bad interference call right about then.

    Always appreciate clear references to actual rules, as they are more complex than most people can imagine.

    As soon as I heard that Coach Dantonio said he called a block on that punt, I thought that he was covering for his player. I'm still thinking that. No way would he have been so stupid as to rush the punter in that situation.

    Bottom line is that we gave up three TDs on their first three possessions, and then gave up a fourth-down bomb followed by a virtually unchallenged walk into the end zone. Change the end of any of those four series, and we win the game. Instead of punting at the end, they would have been running a hurry-up drill trying to catch up.

    [According to the "String Theory" of Physics, that's exactly what happened Saturday night in an alternate universe. Sparty is getting ready for the Rose Bowl in that other universe. Don't let that get you down. There's also an alternate universe where RichRod just completed his fourth year as the UM Coach, and one in which Ed Martin lived to testify.]

  2. By the way, I don't think you're whining to make these points. I don't think you should be happy about that game. I don't think you're petty and I'm not urging you to get over it. With all of the direct rulebook references, how could anyone question your football knowledge? We already know that you're not a fake Spartan. Finally, I don't think you're wrong on your points.

    I've just seen my teams "screwed" before at the end of games, and even worse, throughout the game when nobody would even notice.

    Somebody was going to get hosed on that play. If the officials did not call it, Wisconsin would be going on for decades about the "missed call", and they would also have had a compelling replay clip to use in their campaign.

    This is not sour grapes, but IF we had to split our final two games, I still kinda-sorta-slightly would rather win the bowl game at the end. So if we can do that, I can put this season behind me with a smile. If not, it's another choppy ending, but still a good season.

    ALL OF THESE CONCERNS PEOPLE HAVE HAD OVER THAT LAST GAME SERVE AS EVIDENCE THAT BEATING MICHIGAN IS QUITE CLEARLY NOT ENOUGH FOR MSU FANS TO "MAKE THEIR SEASON". At this point, it serves only as a bonus. Pretty good bonus, but not good enough to counter balance any other game on the schedule.

  3. SpartanDan,

    I received your email. But I'll reply here instead. I really appreciate the research and your explanation and opinion. That stuff is what makes blogging valuable because you just don't see mainstream media actually take that approach. Instead defining "what is so" and and generating an opinion based "what is so", they typically will report on what people think and generate opinions about what people think AS IF it is "what is so". Anyways. Thanks again for contributing. Hey I would still like you to post or forward the crazy scene at the capital grille in DC. (For others - that is where the MSU Alumni goes to watch every game. It's decked out in green and white as if you where in Lansing! I was there (with SpartanDan) for the Penn State game a few years ago. Very cool.

  4. Interesting analysis - but I think you are interpreting each of these rules to suit your needs. Nothing wrong with that - sports, just like politics and the justice system, has many voices that are strong advocates for a single point of view.

    Based on the video, it seems pretty clear that the impact from the hit would not have knocked Nortman down, and he has admitted as much. It *would* have spun him around about 180 degrees. I think that the reason the "incidental contact" portion of this rule has come to be interpreted in this manner is because even tipping the ball gives the defense license to totally destroy the kicker. Therefore, throwing a flag on anyone that hits a kicker even with moderate force is a way of balancing out the equation. FWIW, it seems that the call is made less often when there is incidental contact with a defender that remains on his feet.

    I don't think Nortman held his leg up particularly long - his non-kicking foot was barely down on the ground when he got hit.

    The "blocking the player into the kicker" is an interesting point. Obviously, on the football field, we regularly see people stumbling and falling as a result of blocks. It would probably be in the best interest of the NCAA to set a statute of limitations on this rule; for example, if the player takes ___ steps after being blocked, it is no longer the fault of the person blocking them.

  5. Actually, the refs should call the game in the last minute as they do in the first minute, otherwise there can not be legitimate competition. If the rules change based on the game situation the game is (more) open to manipulation.

  6. ^^^^^
    TWO UP

    Can't argue with the two-minute interpretation above. Also do not believe in the old saying that "you can call holding on every play". I actually believe that there are some plays without holding.

    But I think the main point about this article was to call into question the penalty call as it was made. It was correct to NOT call roughing the punter, yet was it correct to call the lesser "running into the punter" call or not?

    Looks like the rule-book references establish that the official may have chosen to not call any penalty, and upon review, be able to prove his decision was a legal interpretation. But he would probably not have been able to make that point until the newspaper coverage the next day, ergo sum, he might not have made it out of the stadium in one piece.

    To some extent, the officials DO believe that they are paid to "make calls". Sort of like how traffic cops seem to like to write a certain number of tickets on any given day. This guy probably felt it was upon him to "make the call", and he appears to be justified. The fact that he would also have been justified to not make that same call proves that it was a very close play with razor-thin interpretations either way.

    So for any of us to wish that the official had chosen to not make the call, that's perfectly reasonable. I'm with every other Spartan on that.

  7. I love the article, and it saddened me to see us cheated in that game. Everyone in the stadium knew he flopped, I wanted to nominate him for his Oscar performance but I don't like Badgers or weasels. Well, it looks like we are redeeming ourselves, but darn would feel great knowing we would have had 2 Rose Bowls in 3 years.



Please sign in using the method most convenient for you. We do not receive your login information. This function is provided by Blogger.