It doesn’t get much crazier than it did in two late Saturday-night football games in the Pac-12. I can’t remember when not one, but two, league games had such electric endings so late.
Put it this way: Oregon State beat Utah, 51-48, in overtime, and that was the least controversial ending. The Beavers won a huge victory in Salt Lake City, leaving Mike Riley, the Oregon State coach, to finish his post-game radio show at about 12:25 a.m. in Salt Lake City.
The Oregon State touchdown in overtime then turned it over to Arizona State-Wisconsin. First, the Sun Devils came from behind, took a 32-24 lead, and after giving up a fourth-quarter Wisconsin touchdown, led 32-30. ASU appeared to have it in hand, but then allowed a 51-yard pass to Jeff Duckworth along the sideline that set up the visitors for a potential winning field goal.
A short pass that carried out of bounds on the right sideline gave Wisconsin a first down at the ASU 13-yard line with no timeouts and about 18 seconds left. That’s when it got crazy.
Quarterback Joel Stave, trying to center the ball for the Badgers’ kicker, moved to his left and simply placed the ball down in the middle of the field, seemingly without falling down himself. He certainly didn’t appear to have a knee touched. So ASU linebacker Anthony Jones fell on the ball at about the 10-12 second mark, and the clock kept ticking. Wisconsin had no timeouts left.
Officials didn’t place the ball ready for play, and the clock kept expiring. Finally, Wisconsin got to the line and Stave tried to spike it — which obviously would have been the strategy all along — but time ran out.
Clearly, there will be a lot more said about this one — including about Pac-12 officials. I can’t speak definitively for what happened in the final seconds — whether Jones should have been allowed to cover the ball with the clock ticking and the officials not placing the ball down for Wisconsin’s next play — but it’s obvious to me that Wisky was far too risky with the clock in that situation. You’ve got no timeouts left, and you’re looking at a right-hash field goal to win it from 30 yards out. Why mess with the rest of it? Kick the ball, get on a plane and get back to Madtown.
Pretty impressive day by the Pac-12, with only Ohio State beating Cal (which was expected) in the four matchups between the two leagues. UCLA throttled Nebraska, Washington took care of business against Illinois, and Arizona State survived Wisconsin.