RALEIGH — Did the ACC make a mistake on a controversial third-quarter call Thursday night in N.C. States 26-14 loss to No. 3 Clemson?
The conference reviewed the play Friday and couldnt come up with a definitive answer to what happened on what looked like an 83-yard touchdown run for Wolfpack receiver Bryan Underwood in the third quarter. A sideline official ruled he stepped out of bounds.
In a statement released Friday by the conference, coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads said it wasnt clear after a video review of the play whether Underwood stepped out.
Our office has viewed all available angles, each numerous times, in slow motion and freeze frame, Rhoads said in the statement. It is not clear, in reviewing all angles, whether the runner stepped out of bounds or avoided any contact with the sideline.
We recognize that within the number of images and angles viewed, some look like he did not step out of bounds while one looks like he did step out of bounds. In the end, this cannot be resolved beyond all doubt.
Down 13-7 at the time of the call, Underwoods run would have tied the score and given N.C. State the chance to take a 14-13 lead at 7:31 in the third quarter. Instead, line judge Richard Misner called Underwood out of bounds at the Clemson 47-yard line.
Since the play was whistled dead on the field, it could not be reviewed by the replay officials during the game, which Rhoads confirmed Friday was the correct decision.
Three plays after Underwoods run, N.C. State quarterback Pete Thomas fumbled. Clemson recovered at the Wolfpack 48-yard line and quickly flipped the turnover into a 20-7 lead. The Wolfpack trailed the rest of the game.
After the game Thursday night, Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said he saw Underwood run by him near the N.C. State sideline and didnt think Underwood stepped out of bounds.
Its just an unfortunate deal, Doeren said after the game Thursday. I know the guy felt bad about it. You cant do anything about it. Its just the way it is.
A video with the play, and multiple ESPN camera angles, was online at Deadspin.com before the game ended, and State fans took their case to the Internet on Friday.
There was plenty of evidence from the ESPN broadcast. During the broadcast, the announcers working the game questioned the call. During a replay of the run, shown from an overhead camera angle, ESPN color analyst David Pollack said of Underwood: Hes not out there. No, hes not out, I think hes in.
Then play-by-play announcer Rece Davis said: I think thats a miss, gentlemen. Thats a tough, tough break for North Carolina State.
Underwood, who had a similar run on the opposite sideline in the first half, said he didnt notice if he stayed in or touched the sideline. He said he was focused on the end zone.
I mean it hurts, Underwood said. But hey, things happen in a game so you have to bounce back from them good or bad.
The play, which officially went for a 36-yard gain for Underwood, couldnt have been executed much better. On first-and-10 from the N.C. State 17, Underwood came in motion across the formation and took the handoff from Thomas at the left hashmark.
He got a block on the edge from fullback Tyler Purvis and beat linebacker Quandon Christian to the corner. Christian got a hand on the back of Underwoods jersey at the State 45-yard line, but Underwood barely broke stride and raced past safety Travis Blanks into the end zone.
The ESPN replay shows Misner is about about 15 yards behind Underwood when he makes the call. Misners view appears to be obstructed by N.C. State receiver Quintin Payton, who was blocking Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson near the sideline.
Field judge Mike Cullin is about 10 yards in front of Underwood, with a clear view of the play, when Misner makes his call. Cullin follows Underwood into the end zone and signals touchdown.
Its just disappointing when you have a big play like that and it doesnt count, Doeren said Thursday. You just have to move on. You cant complain about things you cant control.