The past two games, bang-bang pass plays have gone against Fresno State, one a lost fumble in overtime of a loss to Tulsa and the other a fumble recovery denied in the third quarter of a loss at UNLV.
Mountain West supervisor of officials Greg Burks did not judge the calls made on the field or through the replay review. But he said Tuesday the conference’s philosophy on those type of plays is if it’s close or there’s doubt on how to rule, make the pass incomplete.
“The philosophy is if you’re not absolutely sure it’s a catch, it should be incomplete,” he said. “Replay can go in at that point, and if they can clearly establish that the catch was made beyond a shadow of a doubt, then they can give the ball to the defense and any return on that would be just immediate recovery where they gained possession. That’s where they would get the ball.”
On a bang-bang play, when it goes to replay you’ve got to see clear and convincing evidence, and we happen to have a disagreement with the replay official on both of them.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, on plays in back-to-back weeks that both went against the Bulldogs
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In overtime against Tulsa, the Bulldogs’ Chason Virgil hit Aaron Peck on a quick slant at the Golden Hurricane 16. Peck was hit by strong safety Jeremy Brady and lost possession, with the play ruled on the field as a catch and fumble. After video review, the call stood.
In the third quarter at UNLV, the Rebels’ Dalton Sneed hit tight end Tim Holt with a short pass and Fresno State outside linebacker James Bailey separated the ball from Holt with a quick and decisive tackle. Defensive end Nate Madsen recovered at the UNLV 5, with the play ruled on the field to be a catch and fumble. Though replays seemed to confirm Holt had possession and was turning upfield, the call was overturned upon review and ruled an incomplete pass.
Both were bang-bang plays, but neither initially was ruled incomplete.
“I can tell you we’ll be using those plays for future training and talking about all of those scenarios to help us draw those lines for consistency so that we call them hopefully the same way from week to week,” Burks said. “But not only do we have a tough play, you have different crews, you have different replay.
The Bulldogs play Saturday at Nevada, playing back-to-back road games to open MW play. In conference history, only six teams have had to do that, including Fresno State last season.
“It’s hard enough to develop consistency within an official’s own mind on those plays, of getting all the officials in the conference to be the same on those plays, you just have more variables and it gets very difficult. That’s not an excuse; that’s just the way it is. Calling those plays consistently is very difficult, and the only way you can do it is to push the threshold one way or the other.”
What happens after those rulings if they go the other way is conjecture, but both were impactful at the time.
Fresno State lost possession against Tulsa and got to a second overtime only after its defense, which had been on the field for 93 plays at that point, held the Golden Hurricane on third down and Redford Jones missed wide right on a 42-yard field-goal attempt.
Against the Rebels, the Bulldogs would have had possession at the 5 with a chance to cut a 21-10 deficit and play with some extra momentum after scoring the first points of the second half on a field goal by Kody Kroening. Coach Tim DeRuyter afterward called it the turning point.
“We have the ball right there, I think at the 6-yard line going in,” he said. “It’s a huge momentum play. We get the ball right there and we score, it’s a different ballgame. Instead, they turned it into a momentum play.”
Fresno State freshman running back Justin Rice, who has been out with a broken foot, could practice his way into some playing time this season. Rice got reps Tuesday in inside run drill and team periods with the Nos. 1 and 2 offenses.
Sneed took advantage of poor tackling on the next play and raced 91 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 28-10. Fresno State got within 31-20 on a Kroening field goal with 11:17 remaining, but no closer.
DeRuyter, who discussed both plays with Burks, couldn’t do much but agree to disagree.
“He explained to me the ruling and the philosophy of what happens on so-called bang-bang plays,” DeRuyter said. “I understand they’re difficult to officiate – he acknowledged the same.
“On a bang-bang play, when it goes to replay you’ve got to see clear and convincing evidence, and we happen to have a disagreement with the replay official on both of them. It could be a difference of opinion and that’s what we have.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT NEVADA
- Saturday: 4 p.m. at Mackay Stadium (30,000)
- Records: Bulldogs 1-4, 0-1 Mountain West; Wolf Pack 2-3, 0-1
- Webcast/radio: ESPN3/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Series: Fresno State leads 27-19-1, but lost 30-16 last season at Bulldog Stadium.