CANTON, Ohio (AP) — A crew of officials with college experience worked the Hall of Fame game Sunday night, filling in for regulars who are locked out in a labor dispute with the NFL.
It was a glimpse of what's to come if the NFL and the officials' union fail to reach an agreement before the season openers. And it didn't take long to have a gaffe.
Craig Ochoa, who has worked Big Ten games, was the referee for the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Arizona Cardinals. Ochoa has eight years of experience in BCS conferences and 16 years officiating Division III games.
He flipped a commemorative coin at midfield to start the game, then incorrectly announced the result to the crowd, saying that New Orleans had won the toss and deferred.
Then, starting to walk away, he caught his mistake.
"Correction, Arizona won the coin toss," he said.
The fill-ins had several rough moments.
After New Orleans scored on its first possession, several Saints came in to block for the extra point and gestured to the officials to point out that they had reported for the play. Coming out of the 2-minute warning in the first half, Ochoa announced that the previous play was under review, then corrected himself and said it was not.
The officials had trouble spotting the ball after a punt that involved a penalty, repeatedly moving the ball after consultations and a discussion with Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
"We made so many mistakes out there, I am in no position to critique anyone," Whisenhunt said.