Badgers find little solace in Pac-12 reprimand

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By Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tuesday, September 17, 2013

MADISON--The Pacific-12’s decision Monday to reprimand the officials who worked Wisconsin’s two-point loss to Arizona State and admit the crew mishandled the final 18 seconds of the game did not surprise the UW players.

“It is what I expected,” senior defensive end Ethan Hemer said. “They came out and said what they were going to say.”

More telling, the announcement was belated and hollow to the players who left Sun Devil Stadium after the game Saturday believing their last opportunity for victory had been snatched away by the officials.

“To us it doesn’t matter,” senior linebacker Chris Borland said. “It was probably the P.C. thing to do, something they had to do, but we don’t care about that.

“We lost the game, so that is all we care about.”

UW (2-1) is preparing to host Purdue (1-2) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the teams’ Big Ten opener.

However, the controversial 32-30 loss to Arizona State and the Pac-12 announcement dominated UW coach Gary Andersen’s weekly news conference Monday.

“This was an unusual situation to end the game,” Pacific-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in the league’s release. “After a thorough review, we have determined that the officials fell short of the high standard in which Pac-12 games should be managed.”

UW’s collective but unspoken response? Thanks for telling us what we already knew.

“All we’re really looking for is accountability in a situation,” Andersen said, “and an opportunity to let the kids finish the games, which has been said many times, and let them be the deciding factor.”

To review:

UW lost the opportunity to kick a game-winning field goal when the final 15 seconds elapsed after quarterback Joel Stave knelt down at the Sun Devils’ 15-yard line in an attempt to center the ball for kicker Kyle French. Although officials blew the play dead, Arizona State linebacker Anthony Jones and several teammates jumped on the ball with 13 seconds left. Jones stayed on the ball until only 4 seconds remained on the clock.

The umpire spotted the ball with 3 seconds left but didn’t allow UW to line up over the ball until 1 second remained. By the time center Dallas Lewallen was able to snap the ball, time had expired.

Andersen stressed that if UW faces a similar late-game situation in the future the staff will not change its approach.

“It is thought out,” he said. “It’s a process. It is practiced many times.”

According to Andersen, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig oversees the drill.

“Coach Lud does a great job of teaching it,” he said. “I think we executed it the right way. We have a teaching tape of the exact scenario.”

The teaching video Ludwig uses is from San Diego State’s 39-38 overtime victory over Nevada last season. Ludwig was San Diego State’s offensive coordinator, and the Aztecs needed only 50 seconds to drive from their 20 into field-goal range to force overtime.

“Obviously, the outcome was a little different,” Andersen said. “But I think we handled it well (Saturday). There was 18 seconds left and you all know the rest.”

Arizona State coach Todd Graham said after the victory the safest course of action for a quarterback in that situation would be to hand the ball to an official.

Andersen reiterated Monday that Stave performed as he had been trained and the staff would not alter its teaching.

“The idea behind putting the ball on the ground is to give the officials the opportunity to get the ball spotted quicker and cleaner,” he said. “The officials, wherever they were, they weren’t there to turn around and get the ball.”

Graham said Monday during his weekly news conference—after the Pac-12 had announced its decision—that it was time to move forward.

“There’s a human element to this game,” said Graham, whose team jumped over UW in both top 25 polls. “You win or you lose. We won, and let’s move onto the next deal.”

Andersen is eager to focus on Purdue, but he made it clear the last thing he wants Stave to do in that situation is to hunt down an official to give him the ball.

“That takes time,” he said. “That takes valuable seconds. Was he instructed to do it the way he did it? Absolutely, yes.

“And the teaching tape that I referred to earlier would show him to do the exact same process, which we taught him during camp and all through spring football.”

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