Gave this some thought overnight--UofM/NW referees

Submitted by Happyshooter on October 9th, 2011 at 10:23 AM

I think there may have been some actual issues with the referees at the Michigan and NW game last night. I am not saying "ZOMG! They had money on the game", but something wasn't right for a Big Ten crew.

Michigan got a lot of penalties the first half. Holding was popular. In the meantime, NW was allowed to flat out hold big as life every fourth offensive play, with probable holds every other play, for the entire first half. Never a call.

Then the scoreboard was started late on the final play of the first half to give NW a better chance of running the score up, with the referee team reviewing what happened and rewarding NW.

The second half we had the helmet loss issue with the play being allowed to continue--I will say that they did punish NW for their coach's poor behavior, both were in MIchigan's favor. Countering that was the way that they would delay whistles when Michigan stars started getting gang piled with three or four defenders.

In Michigan's favor was also the interception review that could have gone either way.

Taken as a whole, there were some fairly serious issues. If the game had stopped at the half I may have been suggesting some sort of bias. As it is with the second half added in, I suspect very poor refereeing--which is almost as bad.




October 9th, 2011 at 1:42 PM ^

I've seen replay officials blow calls before.  Had that been ruled an incomplete pass, you're telling me it would have been overturned?  There's no way...

Yost Ghost

October 9th, 2011 at 2:24 PM ^

that ball never touched the ground. He had it in his hands then cradled it to his body as he hit the ground The reason the ball moved was that while in the process of cradling the ball his forearm hit the ground shoving the ball into his chest. When you look at the replay from the side you can see his forearm is cearly between the ball and the ground.


October 9th, 2011 at 1:54 PM ^

To me, it looked as if the middle of the ball hit the ground, but it was not clear enough to overturn.  I've got a pretty good eye for stuff like that as well, but this was so close, it wasn't going to get overturned.  It was not a clear cut interception though, by any means.  Anyone who wants to argue that fact can look at the division in this post as to whether or not it was a pick.  Clear cut means clear cut.


October 9th, 2011 at 10:30 AM ^

There was a blatant block in the back on a punt return by NW in the 2nd half.  Countess was in position to make the tackle and he was tackled from behind, right in front of the ref.

They weren't good.


October 9th, 2011 at 10:31 AM ^

The only play that I had a problem with was a certain screen pass by NW, I believe in the first half, where one of their blockers literally tackled our corner (think it was Countess) and nothing was called. M fans could he heard booing loudly on tv.


October 9th, 2011 at 10:35 AM ^

The game WAS played around Chicago, where the phrase "vote early and often" has been quite popular over the years.

I don't believe there is any grand conspiracy clearinghouse, but I do believe that officials are human, just like the rest of us, and have their own biases.  I'm sure there are even a few who rig games relative to the spread for their own financial benefit from time to time.  

I am guessing that at least 90 percent of the refs are honest.  I am also guessing that on a level like the B1G, they make "halftime adjustments" if the ledger looks too slanted on one team's direction.

At any rate, all's well that ends well.  


October 9th, 2011 at 10:53 AM ^

Do you know anything about high level officiating? Granted, my background is hockey, not football, but if they're anything alike these guys sit with supervisors at halftime/end of game and go over every call (or noncall) they make in each half. On top of that, at this level they probably are forced to rewatch the games and justify their positioning/calls/noncalls at least once.

Consistently favoring a team (or the home team) would have a Big Ten referee in the high school ranks or lower very quickly. It's a competitive business.


October 9th, 2011 at 10:38 AM ^

That was one of the worst Big Ten crews I've seen, missed and blown calls all around.  Are we sure they weren't SunBelt officials in disguise?


October 9th, 2011 at 10:40 AM ^

I think they just had bad night as a whole. It benefited NW early but in the second half we got a couple of breaks. Kovacs did facemask on that helmet play and they did blow it dead, the 15 yard penalty on Fitzgerald  was enforced from the spot where Persa's helmet came off.


October 9th, 2011 at 2:23 PM ^

I didn't, and I don't think that's a reviewable call.  I don't think the refs should make a practice of calling "Knocking the helmet off...defacto facemask".

Persa ducked as Kovacs flew over him from the left.  The face mask grab involved Kovacs trailing right hand, which was fairly well-hidden except for one TV angle.

Yost Ghost

October 9th, 2011 at 2:39 PM ^

it looked like when Persa ducked his helmet was wedged into the corner of Kovacs elbow. While Kovacs was in the process of wrapping his arms around Persa for a chest high tackle Persa dropped his body to avoid it but didn't drop far enough. He literally ripped his helmet off with his arm not his hand and from the back of the helmet not the front.


October 9th, 2011 at 10:51 AM ^

You can easily detect holding when defenders can't run away from blockers.  There were several situations where this was the case.  Michigan defenders were trying to turn away from NW blockers but somehow could not run away from those guys.   Hmmmm...either an overuse on contact cement on NW jerseys and arms, or someone was...


October 9th, 2011 at 10:51 AM ^

You can easily detect holding when defenders can't run away from blockers.  There were several situations where this was the case.  Michigan defenders were trying to turn away from NW blockers but somehow could not run away from those guys.   Hmmmm...either an overuse on contact cement on NW jerseys and arms, or someone was...


October 9th, 2011 at 10:53 AM ^

So long as refereeing doesn't determine the outcome of the game (and I believe this has to be considered on the whole, not, e.g., one bad call at a crucial moment), I don't think it's worth complaining about their mistakes other than, say, pointing them out in the UFR.

The exception in this game was the helmet-off play. We were on mute at that point because the Tigers were back on and we were triple-TV-ing (Tigers, Michigan, Red Wings) so I couldn't tell if Fitzgerald was more upset about the facemask or the fact that the play was allowed to continue after Persa's helmet was off. There was a facemask on the play, but the helmet came off because Kovacs had the inside of the ear flap -- had he not grabbed the facemask right after it probably would have been more dangerous.

Anyway not blowing that play dead was inexcuseable and if I was Fitzgerald I would have been screaming my face off at the refs. Having the ballcarrier -- the quarterback no less -- running around with his helmet off is a good way to get a kid hurt. That rule should be enforced 100% of the time, not only with whistles blowing but with the ref running into the middle of the play so as to stop play as soon as possible. I would expect the Big Ten to do something about that, even if it's not public.


October 9th, 2011 at 11:34 AM ^

Fitzgerald looked irate that they didn't blow the play dead immediately.  He was gesticulating wildly about the helmet being off and the none whistle to blow it dead.  Which, sadly, jives with a number of non whistles to call plays dead where things were getting increasingly dangerous.  I'm actually surprised there weren't a number of injuries because of it all.  

I totally understand Fitzgerald's rage, the issue is safety there and it's a pretty black and white situation. 


October 9th, 2011 at 12:44 PM ^

I disagree; I think Fitzgerald was just upset that the refs didn't call Kovacs for a personal foul and give Northwestern an automatic first down on that play.  I say that because I was watching some of the press conference after the game and when Fitzgerald was specifically asked about that play, he said "I have three kids' college funds to worry about so I will just leave it at that."  If he was really just angry about his player's safety and not the effect on the game, then I think he would have answered that question differently (i.e., something along the lines of "Win or lose, you don't want anybody getting hurt out there, and when the ballcarrier's helmet comes off, that is just too dangerous of a situation not to blow the play dead immediately...").

That said, I do think UM caught a break there.  The replay appeared to show that Kovacs had grasped some part of the helmet, so he should have been penalized.  But there were bad calls both ways in that game and it didn't decide the outcome, so whatever.


October 9th, 2011 at 8:27 PM ^

Correct.   Fitzgerald wanted a personal foul for a facemask.  It looks like he may have been right.  That call (no-call) went in our favor.  There was also a false start on our O-Line on another key play that was missed.

We should admit as a fanbase when calls go in our favor, since we are quick to rant when they do not.  That no-call was a big deal.  Had NW gotten that call, it's first and 10 inside our 30.  Instead the ball turns over on downs and the game is effectively over.  That call went in our favor.  

NW was down by 11 so it was not like an OSU-Miami NC game situation where a single call changed the game, but the call definetly went in our favor.  Look down at our feet, whistle, shuffle along, and be thankful.   



Wisconsin Wolverine

October 10th, 2011 at 8:06 AM ^

Yeah this all makes sense to me.  Credit to Jordan for his intensity & effort - if he did facemask, it didn't look intentional ... when he's bending the sound barrier as a horizontal human missile, I think he's aiming to wrap his arm around whatever he can get.

But really, you just can't play football without a helmet on.  There should be no hesitation on this point, it's simply too dangerous.  When it looked like Harry Potter was running around in the NU backfield, we should have had a whistle instantly.  It sucks that it counts as a down, but I suppose it's better than actually having your head separated from your shoulders.

What were you waiting for, refs? 

Gulo Gulo Luscus

October 9th, 2011 at 12:16 PM ^

it certainly sounded like a whistle was blown after the helmet came off.  at one point you can see the helmet-less persa look back towards the refs and nearly stop rolling outside before finally chucking it up.  in my humble opinion, the board would be irate if that had been denard.  hard to conclusively say he grabbed the facemask, but i seem to be in the minority who believe it should have been called that way.  i'm not gonna call that a decisive play by any stretch, but a noteworthy one in what is accurately described as an off night for the refs (going both ways).  i can understand why fitz was losing his mind, with the team down 11 and needing that conversion to stay in it.


October 9th, 2011 at 2:38 PM ^

And my angle wasn't the greatest, but it seemed as if Persa had been wrapped up then ducked and scrambled away, losing his helmet in the process.  Then as it became obvious that the qb had no helmet, it sounded like whistles were then blown - some players seemed to obviously stop play.  That was what I thought Fitzgerald was mad about - that they blew the play dead before they could complete the pass for the 1st down.  That was what everyone around us seemed to think was happening - we couldn't see anything about a facemask penalty.  It makes sense in hindsight, but at the time the ruckus seemed to be about whether or not the play had been whistled dead prematurely.



October 9th, 2011 at 12:29 PM ^

its hard to officiate perfectly and refs are going to blow calls. the key is the context of the blown call. the standard "they held"/"we held" thing usually doesn't influence the game all that much (unless your 80 yard td gets called back). 

the big context call in this game was the kovacs/persa helmet dislodging. i was shocked when i watched it live that it wasn't called a facemask - not because it was obvious that kovacs grabbed it (on replay it was clear that he did - but that was probably impossible to see live) but because of a "spirit of the rule" type of thing. the reason the facemask penalty exists is because you can seriously injure a guy's neck by yanking on his facemask. the same goes with the ear hole or any other part of the helmet. when a guy pulls a helmet off a players head with his hands, regardless of whether or not he touches the facemask and regardless of his intent (nobody is suggesting that kovacs was dirty or that the play wasn't weird) its a 15 yarder. 

had the refs flagged that as a 15 yarder on kovacs, the entire complexion of the game changes. nwu is now down 2 scores and approaching the red zone - one td at that point completely changes the game. instead, 15 yards further back and the game is over. that call was huge. and i'd guess that call goes the other way in a huge proportion of cases. michigan got lucky with that one.


October 9th, 2011 at 10:56 AM ^

After reviewing the game I found both teams were holding on several occasions.  I think the type of lateral movement created by both offenses makes it difficult to block properly and or call/not call holding.  It did feel like the ballance by the referees was lopsided at times but that probably had more to do with my bias towards Michigan.


October 9th, 2011 at 10:59 AM ^

Actually, I was looking at the clock for the final 2 plays of the first half. There was at least a full 2 seconds run off the clock for no reason.  If anything NW deserved another 3 points.

Complaining about refs is completely pointless when the biggest blown call of the game should have went against Michigan.

We won, so no need to complain


October 9th, 2011 at 11:03 AM ^

I thought the refs missed some blatant holding calls on NW.  I found myself screaming at the TV in the first half.  I don't like to criticize the officials but I thought they were pretty bad.


October 9th, 2011 at 11:06 AM ^

on the helmet-off play.  How does it come off if Kovacs didn't grab it and pull it at some point?  That makes a double case for either face-masking or a blow to the head, but Persa had ducked his head and Kovacs didn't "go after" the QBs head so there is some gray area.  The replays show Kovac definitely grabbed his helmet.  I'm a a rules guru but it seemed like a penalty to me.

There were other calls going and not going toward both sides all night.  Both teams had sections of the game where they played poorly and the refs certainly had their spots as well.  If we had lost, I'm sure this board would still be blowing up over it unless they shut down.  Unfortunately I still remember those nights.


October 9th, 2011 at 8:34 PM ^

The rule is no grabbing the face mask.  Not no grabbing the face mask unless the opposing player ducks trying to escape.

Kovacs is a smart football player, but he needs to blitz under more control in that situation.