TSL Pass Supplement to the West Virginia Game Analysis
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 11/24/02

Somebody Get Those Refs Canes and Seeing-Eye Dogs!

The officiating crew took a beating from Hokie fans after Wednesday's game, and it was a well-deserved beating. I'm loathe to say that officiating cost the Hokies the game -- as a matter of fact, you'll never hear me say that -- but golly, let's just say the Hokies would have had a much better shot at victory had the referees called a mistake-free game.

I reviewed about ten calls/no-calls that the officials made in this game, and I found that the zebras were vindicated on a few of the calls. But on some of the others, they just looked horrible and incompetent. Here are the calls I reviewed (I understand there were many no-calls, like a holding on Quincy Wilson's 42-yard TD run, that were deserving of review, but I concentrated mostly on calls, and whether or not they were correct).

First Quarter, 13:20 to go: On a short pass, Ernest Wilford was blatantly interfered with, and the refs threw the flag … and called interference on both VT and WVU. Hokie fans went bananas, since Wilford had his back turned to the defender and initiated no contact at all. But if you watch the tape, you can see VT's Richard Johnson blocking a WVU defensive back as the ball is in the air, and I think that's what they called. They called the hit on Wilford as defensive pass interference, and Johnson's hit as offensive pass interference, for offsetting penalties. Refs 1, Critics 0.

First Quarter, 11:00 to go: On a WVU punt on 4th and 4, the Hokies were flagged for a 15-yard roughing the kicker penalty when a Hokie rusher (Vince Fuller?) had the gall to fall on the ground beside WVU punter Mark Fazzolari. Sweet Mary Poppins, what an awful call. Refs 1, Critics 1.

First Quarter, 4:49 to go: After a Hokie TD, Tech lines up, kicks the ball off, and as it is in the air, the play is whistled dead. The referees call delay of game on the Hokies. Say what? Delay of game on a kickoff? What obscure rule is that? To further demonstrate their lack of understanding of basic numbers and math, the official blares loudly into his stadium and TV microphone, "Penalty, delay of game on the kicking team. The ball will be spotted at the 30 and rekicked," … whereupon the officials spot the ball at the VT 35 yard line, and Mollerup rekicks it. One kind message board poster said the flag was waved off. Not me, I instead will beg for a knitting needle to be poked into both my eyes, because I already can't watch any more of this. Critics 2, Refs 1.

Early Third Quarter: After a run by Avon Cobourne, VT's Garnell Wilds gets in a shoving match with a WVU player, takes a swing at him, and gets flagged for a personal foul. Garnell, next time, swing harder. If you're going to get flagged, make it count. Critics 2, Refs 2.

Third Quarter, 8:55 to go: Lee Suggs fires off a go-ahead 27-yard TD run, and the refs call it back for holding. ESPN never does show a decent replay (thanks, guys, can you shut up about Ohio State and Michigan for a second AND COVER THE GAME YOU'RE BROADCASTING?!?!), but on a slow-mo replay of the live shot, VT's Luke Owens can be seen grabbing a WVU player at the point of attack. As Suggs bursts through the pack, the ref immediately throws his flag at Owens. Grrr. I don't like it, but I can't argue it. As Johnnie Cochran might say, If Owens grabs, you must throw the flag. Refs 3, Critics 2.

Third Quarter, 6:20 to go: On a deep pass, VT's Brandon Manning is called for pass interference. As I watch the tape, I think to myself, yeah, it looks like Brandon hit him a little early. Then I read on BeamerBall.com that one of the VT coaches (whose name will be withheld to protect the innocent) called the play a "horrible" call. Hey, who am I to argue? Refs 3, Critics 3.

Fourth Quarter, 7:35 to go: Kevin Jones bursts through the line on a running play, makes a nifty move towards a seam of daylight, and looks like he could … go … all … the … way! Except Porky the Back Judge can't get his caboose out of Kevin's way. KJ tries to avoid Mr. Stripey and slips and falls on that million-dollar painted field … then, appropriately gets up and blesses the ref out. Hey, ref, next time, get in the way of a tackler, okay? Critics 4, Refs 3.

Fourth Quarter, 7:00 to go: Just a few seconds later (in game time), KJ makes another stunning run, totally unimpeded by the referees, and nearly scores, but he steps out of bounds on the 21-yard line. For once, the eagle-eyed whistle-blowers actually see the play correctly. Aaaaarghh! Couldn't you have screwed up this call, instead of the ones you did blow? Critics 4, Refs 4.

Fourth Quarter, 5:06 to go: Lee Suggs scores on second and goal from the one (click here to see the picture, from hokiesports.com). Refs spot the ball at the one-foot line. One ref uses sign language to spell "WATER" in another ref's palm. That's an obscure Helen Keller reference, for those not in the know, and just for the record, Helen was blind, deaf, and yes, DUMB. Critics 5, Refs 4, but only because we can't give the Critics 5 points at once. If we could, this contest would be a blowout.

Fourth Quarter, 1:17 to go: On the last Hokie drive, during a dead ball, VT center Jake Grove lashes out and pops a WVU player in the mouth, in front of God and everybody. The Big East refs don’t call it. I take my hat off to the refs for not making a critical call at a critical juncture of the game, and since when did Ronyell Whitaker's spirit leap into Jake Grove's body? Critics 5, Refs 5.

Fourth Quarter: 1:05 to go: Shortly after that no-call, Ernest Wilford catches a 9-yard pass and battles his way out of bounds. The ref does the wind-the-clock signal anyway, and time continues to run off the clock. Sorry to report that the tacklers stopped Wilford's progress in bounds, and therefore, the play was "halted" in bounds, and the refs made the correct call. Refs 6, Critics 5, for the narrow victory by the refs. To honor their contribution to the game, TSL will make a donation in their names to the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Ten Random Observations About the Game

1.) I'm starting to think the million dollars spent on Tech's fancy football field two years ago might have been better invested in the soccer program or track and field program. When you pay a million dollars and have to paint the field green so it looks okay on TV, something ain't right.

2.) Did you catch it when Vegas Robinson pushed a WVU runner out of bounds in the first quarter and absolutely crushed a WVU assistant coach? Ouch!

3.) Bizarro Tech football: with 4:49 to go, WVU converted a first down, and Avon Cobourne inexplicably pushed VT's Ronyell Whitaker from behind after the play, drawing a personal foul penalty. The penalty pushed WVU back to the VT 47 after they had penetrated to the 32, and the Mountaineers did not score on the drive. Usually, it's Whitaker committing a silly personal foul -- nice to see it going in the other direction.

4.) In case you haven't noticed it, VT has been running a funky two-tight-end set not just inside the opponent's ten-yard line, but all over the field. Look for it, and see how the Hokie offense does when they run it (I have yet to do any sort of analysis).

5.) You can see VT offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring growing game by game. After running an ultraconservative offense in the first nine games, he has thrown in play-action passing, rollouts, passes to the tight end and running backs, and in this game, the triple option. Stinespring has a lot to learn as an offensive coordinator, but the good thing is, every time he does something new, he does exactly that: learn something.

6.) Speaking of the option, Bryan Randall did an awesome job running it in this game. Simply awesome. He pitched at the right time, he kept it at the right time, he did it all.

7.) Doug Easlick is having a great year. He missed a block or two in this game, but for the most part, he has been outstanding as a blocker. He threw a great block ten yards downfield on Suggs' record-breaking TD run to spring TD Lee for the score.

8.) ESPN's coverage was uncharacteristically disappointing. I thought play-by-play announcer Steve Levy and color announcer Rod Gilmore yucked it up and talked about other things way too much, when they should have been analyzing the game. They didn't notice that the delay of game on the kickoff wasn't marked off, they didn't see Garnell Wilds' personal foul, they never even tried to find the holding on the Suggs TD that was called back, they didn't clearly show if KJ was out of bounds on the 21 on the play mentioned above, and worst of all, they never showed a replay of whether or not Suggs made it into the end zone on the second-down run from the one-yard line.

9.) During four consecutive offensive plays that WVU ran that spanned two drives and the first and second quarters, the Mountaineers gained 116 yards (29 yards per play). WVU had a 56-yard pass play, a 9-yard run, a 24-yard run, and a 27-yard run. They only had 271 yards on the other 62 offensive plays (4.37 yards per play).

10.) Perhaps the worst part of the last two home losses is that they have shaken the Hokie fans' confidence in winning night games at home. VT hadn't lost a home night game since 1995 (Boston College) before losing to Pitt and WVU, and Hokie fans thought Tech was invincible in Lane, in the dark. Not so.

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