Dubious call that cost Sac State a victory touches off instant replay debate

Published: Saturday, Sep. 28, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 30, 2013 - 2:45 pm

Sacramento State had a critical play go against it in last Saturday's 24-21 overtime loss to Southern Utah.

After driving 98 yards to score a touchdown with 31 seconds left to cut the Hornets' lead to 21-19, Southern Utah went for a two-point conversion that turned into a wild play.

Southern Utah quarterback Aaron Cantu, rolling to his right to try to escape pursuers, threw a pass that deflected off the hands of one of his receivers near the front corner of the end zone. Another receiver, Griff McNabb, coming in from out of bounds, snagged the ball with a diving catch in the end zone.

There was plenty of confusion, no doubt enhanced by the momentum shift in the final, frantic minutes, which included the nullification of two Sacramento State interceptions because of penalties on Southern Utah's final scoring drive.

Some thought Hornets defender Anthony Payne got a hand on the ball. But others thought Payne didn't touch the ball, which would have made the catch illegal and the Hornets would have won the game.

If Sac State and Southern Utah were Football Bowl Subdivision schools, the play might have been reviewed through instant replay and possibly overturned if there was "indisputable evidence."

But the Big Sky Conference, like most schools at the Football Championship Subdivision level, don't do video review, even for televised games.

"Right now the challenge is finances," Sacramento State Athletic Director Terry Wanless said. "You would have to have at least nine cameras in a stadium to make instant replay viable."

The East Coast-based Big South Conference recently became the third FCS conference to experiment with instant replay, but it's only for the eight games Big South teams are playing on ESPN3.

Wanless thinks for a review system to work in the 13-team Big Sky Conference, every team would have to be on board for every game.

"There's been discussion as a league, but you can't have Sac State doing instant replay and another school not," he said. "It's got to be all or none."

Big Sky Conference Assistant Commissioner Jon Kasper said officials are looking into options to "potentially have it maybe next season or the season after."

Kasper said because the review is done in the press box, it requires extra space that some Big Sky schools lack.

"It also requires additional equipment and additional personnel," Kasper said via e-mail. "It's not just a matter of the game being televised. In the FBS, there is a company that comes in and handles replay, and then there is a guy – former official – usually who handles review."

Wanless admitted he's a bit of a throwback, so he's not a big proponent of video review. He has said that part of the "magic of the game" is the human element, which sometimes includes "human error."

And while Wanless thinks the officials missed the call on the two-point conversion – "I'm seeing it through green and gold (the Hornets' colors)" – he said the Big Sky Conference does a good job of preparing and vetting officials.

"Every game, every play is reviewed by professional people," Wanless said. "Calls that are questionable go to the league office. There's great scrutiny."

The Big Sky Conference decided not to issue a statement about its review of the two-point conversion, according to Sac State media director Brian Berger.

TODAY'S GAME

SACRAMENTO STATE (1-3) AT WEBER STATE (1-3)

• Where: Stewart Stadium (17,500) in Ogden, Utah

• Time: 5:05 p.m.

• Radio: 1380

• Wildcats at a glance: After three games on the road – losses to FBS teams Utah and Utah State and FCS-ranked McNeese State – Weber State returns home for its Big Sky Conference opener and homecoming game. The Wildcats have allowed an average of 55.8 points, last in the Big Sky, and 591 yards, but they have a defensive standout in inside linebacker Anthony Morales. In 34 career games, the senior has 279 tackles, 10th in school history. Freshman quarterback Austin Chipoletti (26 of 57, 186 yards, one touchdown) of Jacksonville, Fla., has started the last two games.

• Hornets at a glance: Sac State will try to bounce back from a disappointing 24-21 overtime nonconference loss at home to Southern Utah. Other than Southern Utah's late 98-yard scoring drive to tie the score in regulation, the Hornets played well. Sac State had 402 yards and got a strong game from redshirt freshman running back Demetrius Warren (career-high 89 yards on 14 carries). Defensively, linebackers Todd Davis, a senior, and Russell Smith (Del Oro), a freshman, continued to excel while safety Robert Beale had a second-quarter interception, the Hornets' first defensive turnover of the season.

• The series: Weber State leads 11-6 all-time and is 8-0 in Ogden.

– Bill Paterson

Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

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