With 2:15 to play in Saturday night’s Kentucky/South Carolina game, the Wildcats were flagged for an illegal substitution coming out of a timeout. Trailing 35-28, UK was attempting to stop Carolina and get the ball back for one last drive. The penalty gave the Gamecocks a 1st-and-5 that they eventually converted to clinch the game.
Kentucky didn’t have 12 men on the field and didn’t illegally substitute anyone. And the SEC has admitted as much to Kentucky coach Mark Stoops:
“Just got off the phone with (SEC coordinator of officials) Steve Shaw and they made a mistake. They were wrong…
I couldn’t understand, I didn’t understand the call. I thought it was on them. The guy on our sideline thought it was on them. I said, ‘We didn’t substitute anybody.’ We didn’t take anybody out after that. So, I don’t understand. They said there was 12 guys. I said, ‘Well, we played with the same guys that were out there, so evidently we played the last three plays, four plays with 12.’”
Stoops added: “Steve does an outstanding job. We have great officials in this league, very high integrity, and I have a lot of confidence in Steve Shaw.”
Credit UK’s first-year head coach for handling this matter perfectly. There were 122 plays run on Saturday and Kentucky could have improved on any one of them, which might have made a difference in the game’s outcome.
Readers of this site know that we tend to believe teams have to be better than the officials. Bad calls will be made in every single game because the guys in the black-and-white shirts are human. Don’t want a blown call to cost your team, then pull for your team to score more touchdowns.
The SEC works hard to hire, train and grade the best officials in college football. Due to the fact that no one’s team ever deserves to be flagged for anything, those refs are hated by 90% of SEC fans. Having lived in ACC and Big Ten country, I can tell you that the officials in those conferences are despised as well. Everyone has “the worst officials in the country.” Or so they’d tell you.
But at the end of the day, teams have 100+ chances per game to take matters out of the officials’ hands. Unfortunately for UK, they didn’t get the right call on Saturday. Whether they would have stopped Carolina on 1st-and-10 rather than 1st-and-5 is anyone’s guess. But credit Stoops for not whining and not fueling the fires already lit by conspiracy theories.
There’s not a team in the league that won’t be a victim and a beneficiary of a blown call at some point this season. It happens.