In which I preface the whining with relevant factual information…
At last week’s Big Ten meetings, Dispatch writer Ken Gordon cornered Big Ten coordinator of officials Dave Parry about the officiating mistakes during last year’s OSU/Illinois game.
Asked if he was upset about the non-called fumble that gave Illinois a TD and momentum for the game, he said:
“Absolutely… I’ve got to be careful what I say, but strong measures were taken. It was not a happy command center at that moment.”
It’s a small statement, but it’s been long awaited. The Big Ten refused to comment on the issue after the game — even after an investigation revealed that the game’s referee, Stephan Pamon, had a history of casino gambling-caused bankruptcy, and had been disciplined the week prior for incompetence during the Purdue/Penn State game.
The Big 10 has not renewed Stephan Pamon’s contract for the 2008 season.
So even though ten months have passed, there’s a satisfaction in this de facto acknowledgment by conference higher-ups that some amount of officiating errors played a role in the outcome of the game.
In which I continue to whine about the game…
I know it’s “balanced and politically correct” of me to say that the fumble wasn’t the reason for the Buckeye’s loss. But I can’t do it. Did the OSU defense fail to force a punt on that last 8 minute drive? Yes. Did the Vest make the biggest sideline mistake of his coaching career in calling a time out, right when Zook was about to give Beanie and Boeckman the ball back? Yes. But both of those situations should be viewed in the context of the earlier abhorrent officiating.
Illinois scored after the non-called fumble, tying the game. It should be noted that, at that point, OSU was dominating. Later, a missed call on an obvious pick play allowed Illinois to score another TD.
In other words, had Pamon’s crew been just a smidge more competent, Illinois would likely have had 14 fewer points late in the game, putting them at least one TD behind the Buckeyes – maybe more.
It is in this context where we must examine the player execution and coaching mistakes of the late fourth quarter. Would Zook have been running QB sneaks for the last eight minutes of the game if his team was down by one or two TDs, or even if the two teams were tied? Not likely.
In which I continue to whine about past trends…
For the past half-decade, OSU has finished at or near the bottom of the 119 Div I-A (FBS) schools in opponent penalties (penalties applied to Buckeye opponents). Consider just the past four seasons:
Seriously – why isn’t this trend a bigger deal to everyone? Regardless of whatever team holds your loyalty, doesn’t anyone else find this trend a mite suspicious?
Or are we really supposed to believe that all of OSU’s opponents for the past five years suddenly displayed their best behavior when playing the Buckeyes?