Two months after the Oregon instant replay fiasco, he is answering the phone again. Irate Sooner fans ring him up just two or three times a week now. The death threats have stopped. The healing has begun.
"It will never leave me," Gordon Riese says. "Until I die." On a day we set aside to count our blessings, some fans will no doubt continue cursing Riese, who was in charge of the botched review that cost Oklahoma victory on that September afternoon at Autzen Stadium. The Sooners have rebounded nicely from the stunning setback. But a 9-2 record should have been 10-1. Many fans see the current BCS picture and wonder, despite a loss to Texas, if OU wouldn't be at least on the fringe of the national title conversation. Who knows? But fans know why the Sooners are not. Riese does, too. "Everybody knows," he says. You remember how it went. OU ahead by six points, 72 seconds left, an onside kick, a collision. You saw Allen Patrick emerge with the football. You saw officials huddle. You watched countless replays. Stunned, you saw Oregon given the ball. You saw the Ducks score, and win. But there are some things, Riese says, you don't know. Although the Pac-10 has forbidden him to speak on the topic, Riese hints there's plenty of blame to go around. He says he saw just one replay angle of the onside kick. But he won't explain why that was, whether it was a technical or human error. The angle came from Oklahoma's end zone. From that vantage, Riese had no chance of determining whether, as he was asked, an Oregon player had touched the football before it traveled the required 10 yards. Later, after returning home, Riese finally saw the angles you and I saw. He already knew — just had that feeling officials get when a call is blown. He had stopped the game five times for replay reviews. This one? "This was the easiest call to make, if I'd have gotten the (correct) replay," Riese says. "It would have been the right call. It would have been the correct call. The Oregon kid touched the ball at the 44-yard line." But wait. It gets worse. From that end-zone shot, Riese couldn't answer the question he was asked. But he could tell Oregon didn't have the football. "I saw the ball laying on the ground, the Oklahoma kid picks the ball up with his knee on the ground," Riese says. "I knew it was Oklahoma ball." But here's the thing: By rule, Riese wasn't allowed to determine possession. Not after the officials had already given the ball to Oregon. Surely, Riese could have hinted of their mistake? Uh, no. During the review, Riese says, the referee asked him which team recovered the football.
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