One Replay to Change a Season

Trying to make sense of Big 12 replay officials

Photo by Sean Benesh on Unsplash

Update: The Big 12 Coordinator of Football Officials, Greg Burks, has released a statement (see tweet below). Essentially, here is the explanation of events according to Burks.

  • The play went under review.
  • Review officials are allowed to look at whether someone touched the ball.
  • Review officials are NOT allowed to look at forced touching.
  • Burks said even if forced touching was allowed to be reviewed, he does not believe there was any.

So basically, the review could add the penalty of forced touching, but doesn’t have the ability to address why. I don’t agree with the judgment, but it’s not my job to agree.

I’ll leave the post below in its original form.

I have been an Oklahoma Sooners fan my entire life.

I am not a rules expert weighing in, I am a dedicated fan trying to process what happened. I reserve the right to be passionately wrong.

Ironically, this isn’t the first onside kick we’ve ever had surrounded by debate.

When it comes to sports, I tend to follow a few guiding principals in my fandom and how I talk about games after-the-fact.

  • You don’t get to say, “Yes, but _______ was injured or we would have won.” Injuries are part of it.
  • Bad calls are part of the game.
  • BUT, bad calls should not decide a game.

See, that’s not a lot of rules.

In the final 2 minutes, it was 48–41 and the Sooners trailed. They lined up for an onside kick that was apparently recovered.

On the field, it was ruled to be recovered by Oklahoma. This matters, because College Football rules dictate that a review has to have conclusive evidence to overrule the call on the field.

That means the replay official, or in this place, an additional replay team in Dallas, have to be able to say beyond any doubt that there is conclusive video evidence, not “we think…”. If there is any debate, the decision on the field stands.

The officials chose to review the play, and at first glance, it looked as if freshman reciever Trejan Bridges made contact with the ball before it went 10 yards.

In the replay, it clearly ricochets off of Bridges’ leg and down the field. By rule, with the kicking team making contact with the ball before the 10 yard mark, it should be Kansas State’s ball.

However, watching the replay, it’s also clear that Bridges was blocked into the ball. Does that matter? Yes.

ARTICLE 4. Forced Touching Disregarded

  1. A player blocked by an opponent into a free kick is not, while inbounds, deemed to have touched the kick. (A.R. 2–11–4:I)
  2. An inbounds player touched by a ball either batted or illegally kicked by an opponent is not deemed to have touched the ball (Rule 2–11–4-c).

What does that mean? If the review shows that Bridges was pushed into the ball, it is as if it doesn’t happen.

In the post game press conference, Lincoln Riley said, “an official afterwards explained to him that Trejan Bridges wasn’t blocked into the ball. Play was batted around in Big 12’s replay center in Texas.” (source tweet)

As a side note: Yes, there are plenty of arguments that say, “Oklahoma should have never been in that position anyway.” While that may be true, this deals with situations that were, not situations that should have or would have been. Kansas State played and coached an incredible game, and I wouldn’t discredit them by saying they “shouldn’t have been in it at that point.” They’re a great team and earned the spot. it’s just a shame that Oklahoma had their chance to win in the end taken away from them.

What does that come down to?

Oklahoma recovered an onside kick that was ruled a recovery, and the replay officials watched the videos, and determined the Oklahoma player was not knocked into the field.

To the best of my abilities, that means one of three things took over with Big 12 officials.

They either did or didn’t know the rules, and either did or didn’t see the play.

INCOMPETENCE. They saw the plays but didn’t know the rules.

Maybe they did not know the rule in Article 4? The problem with that is as replay officials and rules experts, it is their job to know the rules. It isn’t even a vague or uncommon rule.

LAZINESS. They knew the rules but didn’t see the play.

They had access to every possible camera angle. Maybe the only watched one angle that showed Trejan Bridges touched the ball and determined that was conclusive enough. Maybe they didn’t evaluate it from any other perspectives, and decided it wasn’t worth it to check a second angle?

INTEGRITY ISSUES. They saw the plays and knew the rules.

This is the second least likely of the three, but the only other potential option is that they knew the rules, they saw the angle, and they still chose to overturn the call on the field with inaccurate information.

I’m not sure whether incompetence or laziness is to blame. Either way, Oklahoma fails to make it through October undefeated once again (the last time was 2004), they are no longer in control of their own playoff birth, and must play a flawless remainder of the season to have a chance at a National Championship.

Oklahoma fans still talk about a blatantly bad call in 2006, you better believe this is just the beginning, especially if this is the call that costs Oklahoma a shot at a championship.

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Austin Walker is a husband, dad, pastor, and college football fanatic who leads a multisite student ministry team in Central Arkansas. He writes about leadership, productivity, team building, coaching, and theology.

If you want to find out more about Austin, listen to sermons, contact him about speaking, or inquire about coaching opportunities, visit

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