MAC commissioner criticizes 'egregious' officiating at end of Northern Illinois' Cure Bowl loss

·2-min read

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher is unhappy with the way the Cure Bowl ended on Friday night.

Coastal Carolina held on for a 47-41 win over Northern Illinois after the Huskies were unable to run a play for a potential game-winning touchdown with two seconds left.

Rocky Lombardi hit Miles Joiner for what was ruled to be a four-yard catch on fourth-and-1. Joiner hit the ground at the Coastal Carolina 4 yard-line and officials ruled that he was in bounds when he was tackled.

The clock stopped for the first down with two seconds left. In college football, the clock stops after a first down and starts on the referee’s signal after the ball is ready for play.

Friday night, the clock started before the official spotting the ball was out of the way. That early start helped prevent NIU from running one more play.

Here's how it unfolded:

“At the end of last night’s NIU vs. Coastal Carolina football game in Orlando, a series of errors by the on-field officials and the replay official denied NU the opportunity to run one more play,” Steinbrecher said in his statement. “Following the reception along the sideline, the play should have been stopped for a review. Also, the clock was not managed appropriately on what should have been the final play as the center judge should have been allowed to clear the center before the referee wound the clock. This should not have occurred and the egregious errors around a potential game-changing situation is both unfortunate and unacceptable.”

Steinbrecher's criticism of the clock management at the end of the game is valid. And his request for a replay review must be related to the clock as well. There were four seconds on the clock when Joiner landed on the turf. At worst, a replay review could have put a second back on the clock and given NIU three seconds for a final play.

A replay review could have also overturned the catch, however. It was never clear if Joiner had total possession of the ball before it came out of his grasp and his immediate gesture to the official on the sideline that he caught it is a sign that the catch could have been borderline.

If a replay review called the pass incomplete, Coastal would have gotten the ball since it was a play on fourth down.

In hindsight, NIU should have thrown for the end zone or run a play closer to the sideline. But the Huskies clearly thought the play would have given them a chance to get into the end zone and tie the game before an extra point. And that might have become reality with some better officiating.

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