Debunking the importance of That Unsportsmanlike Conduct Penalty

Submitted by Brhino on September 15th, 2009 at 1:59 PM
A lot has been said about Armando Allen's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following his run to the endzone for a two-point conversion to put Notre Dame up 34-31.  Notre Dame fans claim that it was a weak call.  Michigan fans feel that it was justified.  Personally, I feel the referees were actually docking Notre Dame style points for the Clausen Butt Dance.  They're allowed to dock style points, it's in the rule book.  Go look it up, I don't have time.

Now, part-in-parcel with the "was the penalty justified?" argument must be the statement "the decision in question significantly effected the outcome of the game".  For example, if Brandon Minor picks up 15 yards on first-and-ten but the refs only spot him for 14.5 yards, and Michigan later has to punt, nobody's going to argue about the spot because it didn't much matter in the big picture of things.  Thus, in arguing that Allen should not have been flagged, ND fans are also arguing that if he hadn't been flagged, the game would have turned out differently.  However, this is clearly not the case.

To make this argument we must enter a PARALLEL UNIVERSE!  The rules of the PARALLEL UNIVERSE are as follows: Inside the parallel universe, everything happens exactly as it happened in our universe EXCEPT for the one thing that was changed.  If we don't make this assumption then the parallel universe is useless for comparative purposes.  With that in mind, let's begin.

Our universes diverge at the exact moment Armando Allen crosses the goal line for a successful two point conversion.  In our universe, he "shushes" the crowd (and drops some F-bombs?).  In the Parallel universe, he hands the ball to the ref, quietly thanks Vishnu (He practices Hinduism in the parallel universe.  What?) for giving him the strength to reach the end zone, and returns to the sidelines.  Jimmah Clausen's dance is ESPN's top play of the day, and he and his linemen compete in America's Top Dance Crew during the offseason, finishing third.

In our universe, Odoms returns the ensuing kickoff (which was kicked from 15 yards back due to the penalty) 15 yards to the Michigan 41.
In the parallel universe, Odoms returns the ensuing kickoff (which was kicked from the standard spot) 15 yards to the Michigan 26.

After that, in our universe Michigan drives before stalling with a 4th-and-15 at the Michigan 49.
In the parrallel universe Michigan drives before stalling with a 4th-and-15 at the Michigan 34.

In our universe, Michigan takes a deliberate delay-of-game penalty to back up 5 yards, but then Notre Dame jumps offsides moving the line back to the 49.  Zoltan Mesko (who, incidentally, can SEE parallel universes.  Freaky, huh?) then punts 34 yards to the ND 16.  No return.  Note the length of the punt - 34 yards would be pretty subpar, but Zoltan is trying to get the ball inside the 20 but not in the end zone, which he does successfully.
In the parallel universe, Michigan does not take the deliberate delay-of-game penalty but Notre Dame still jumps offsides, giving Michigan 4th-and-10 at the Michigan 39.  From here, Zoltan is doing a straight-up max distance punt, and he gets it 45 yards (two more than his average from last year) which lands at... the Notre Dame 16.  No return.

Look!  At this point, the parallel universe and ours have re-converged, and we find Notre Dame with the ball in the same spot with the same about of time on the clock in both universes.  We are left to conclude that in the big picture, Armando Allen's unsportsmanlike conduct had no more effect on the final outcome of the game than any of the millions of other minute, insignificant events and that make up a football game.



September 15th, 2009 at 2:33 PM ^

It may have been a cumulative offense to some degree, since it was not the first ND touchdown celebration that directed some mockery toward UM. On the previous touchdown you may recall Golden Tate holding the ball out in front of himself and staring down a UM defender as he lolly-gagged across the goal line after Cissoko had gone down (shades of Reggie Bush v. Urlacher). Honestly, I think that was more worthy of a call. It may have made the fuse shorter for the shush.


September 15th, 2009 at 2:40 PM ^


Assuming Zoltan would have boomed a 45-yarder is not a safe bet. His average on the day was 32.5 and his longest was 40. And he only had one punt inside the 20 - in fact, I can think of at least two times Zoltan was going for max distance and biffed it. He had a very un-space-emperor-like day in the punting department.

At best you can give him 40 yards. You'd probably be better served to assume the average, though, which means 12 or 13 extra yards for Notre Dame in your scenario. Which coincidentally enough is pretty darn close to the 15 yards of the call on Allen.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:00 PM ^

his average on the day was brought down by his 13-yard shank (which was, in fact, caused by a brief lapse of judgment when he allowed his space twin Moltan Zesko to attempt one punt. I'm surprised nobody noticed the sudden appearance of his magnificent handlebar mustache). In any case, punt distance is highly situational (a bad or pooch punt brings the average down, a good bounce brings the average up) and he hasn't had enough attempts this year for any kind of reliable average, which is why I used last year's average but added a bit 'cause he's been practicing (note the sudden, inexplicable appearance of several new craters in the moon during the offseason).


September 15th, 2009 at 9:59 PM ^

"I'm surprised nobody noticed the sudden appearance of his magnificent handlebar mustache..."

This made me laugh so much that I cried. It makes me think of the Strong Bad doppelganger from homestar runner goodness.

AND this...

*Moltan Zesko, mustache and all, prepares for a round of fisticuffs with the Notre Dame Leprechaun-jerk*


September 15th, 2009 at 3:49 PM ^

also question the assumption that ND would jump offsides in the parallel universe. The linemen appeared to be particularly stoic during the initial delay-of-game attempt, during which UofM would have been forced to punt.

At the end of the day, I agree with you and everyone else that this was not the game-breaking penalty ND fans claim it to be.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:10 PM ^

The penalty did affect field position somewhat, but no moreso than ND's 28-yard punt thereafter. ND fans shouldn't forget about that. With a normal-distance punt, it would have been more difficult for us to score a TD.


September 15th, 2009 at 5:19 PM ^

"Personally, I feel the referees were actually docking Notre Dame style points for the Clausen Butt Dance."

You pick up the style point Clausen lost. Well played.


September 15th, 2009 at 11:20 PM ^

You know - I've always had a hard time conceptualizing the current scientific paradigm that the universe is continuously expanding every moment. If you believe that there are an infinite number of alternate universes (or parallel ones) and that every action taken by anything in this world can create more, then it becomes simpler to understand. At least it isn't as crazy as trying to picture two sizes of infinity. I don't even care if it's true, it just makes me happy that I can wrap my brain around it a bit better this way...


September 15th, 2009 at 11:33 PM ^

Any time a call would have been different (therefore forcing you to enter an alternate universe) the decisions made by both teams would have been altered from that point forward as well. Trying to point out a single call regardless of its time (1st play or 4th quarter) does not prove the outcome would have been different in the end.