Texas Tech’s DeAndre Washington zipped to the go-ahead touchdown Thursday night against TCU, except he forgot one important thing. The football. Washington, apparently wanting to act cool, dropped the ball just before he crossed the goal line. The ball rolled into the end zone and came to a stop. No matter. The field judge signaled touchdown.
The play was reviewed, the TD was overturned and the ball was placed at the half-yard line, though a 15-yard celebration penalty was tacked on against Tech.
We discussed the play Friday on The Sports Animal, and a Big 12 officiating expert called to clarify exactly what’s going on. Here was his explanation.
When the official signals touchdown on a play found to not be a touchdown, it’s treated like an inadvertent whistle. He’s ruled the ball dead. In replay, it’s treated like a runner who was ruled down. “What we have to do is figure out what happened to the football,” the expert said.
If something happens in immediate continual action, like the ball going out of the end zone or the defense recovering in the end zone, it’s a touchback and the ball changes hands. If an offensive player recovers, it’s a touchdown.
But in this case, none of that happened. When the ball rolls dead in the end zone, it’s the same as if a runner was ruled down. “All replay can do is put it back where it was when he lost it,” the expert said.
The key is the on-field official. If the on-field official doesn’t signal touchdown, it’s like any loose ball. And if the field judge had not ruled a TD, and the play developed the way it did, the result would have been — a touchdown. The rulebook declares that when a fumble occurs and it is not recovered, the ball is awarded to the offense at that spot.
But in Lubbock, the field judge had signaled touchdown, effectively stopping play unless immediate action occurred with the ball.
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