You can’t make this stuff up. OSU is driving down the field and running down the clock. You know, your typical “leading late in the 4th” strategy. OSU gets stopped by the Central Michigan defense and suddenly it’s 4th and 13. OSU runs the clock down to 4 seconds and takes a timeout. The camera pans to the disheartened Central Michigan players on the sideline.
Barely in Central Mich territory, OSU chooses to go for it. The pass is up. As it floats in the air as if in slow motion, all eyes are on the game clock as it ticks down to :00. The ball sails out of bounds. That’s it. Game over. FINAL replaces :00 on the scoreboard. Players and coaches casually stroll onto the field.
But wait! The refs confer eagerly and immediately our attention is directed to the flag on the field. The call: Intentional Grounding. There was no receiver in the area. It is a loss of down penalty, and the ball is turned over to the Central Michigan offense. They unbelievably get an untimed down at the spot of the foul.
Central Michigan, showing a clutch formation at their own 49, the game clock still at :00. The QB drops back, steps up into the pocket, launches the ball down the field. He didn’t have the arm strength to make it a true Hail Mary pass, and it’s caught at the 10. As the receiver is being brought down by the tackle, he tosses up the ball in what may be the most miraculous lateral. It’s caught, he gets the edge, the OSU defense is closing in. Stretching, he breaks the plane. Touchdown, Central Michigan. The play is reviewed and confirmed. Final: 30-27, unranked Central Michigan upsets #22 OSU. My god, I love college football.
Controversy: Did Central Michigan win due to a misenforced penalty?
As discussed by the announcers, the rule seems to state that there’s an exception to extending the play in situations where it results in a loss of down for the offending team. As a 4th and long penalty, it would have naturally resulted in a loss of down for OSU. Thus, Central Michigan should never have gotten that untimed down at :00 leading to the dramatic touchdown and upset victory over OSU.
On the other hand, it makes some sense to turn the ball over to the non-offending team in this situation. If you allow that Intentional Grounding call to end the game, there’s no real consequence to the penalty. OSU doesn’t suffer. They successfully run the clock down without giving Central Michigan an opportunity to respond. It would set precedent that would encourage QBs to continue committing the penalty without fear of ramification, rather than discourage objectionable conduct and play violations to maintain the integrity of the rules which is the primary purpose of enforcement in the first place. I understand that the rules say one thing. But, in this case, perhaps there’s some logic to the outcome, and the misenforced penalty instead identified a game situation that’s unaccounted for by the current rules and exposed an enforcement weakness that may need revisiting in the future by the rules committee.