Catch, Not a Catch — Let’s Learn the Rules Together!

Fiesta Bowl Jordan Fuller fumble return Ohio State Buckeyes

Late in the third quarter of Ohio State’s 29-23 loss to Clemson in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl, Tigers wide receiver Justyn Ross caught a third-down pass away from his body and tried to fight out of a tackle while taking four steps with the ball securely in his hands.

The fighting failed, however, as OSU cornerback Jeffrey Okudah knocked the ball out of Ross’ hands, seemingly forcing a fumble.

The assumed fumble was picked up by Buckeye safety Jordan Fuller and run into the end zone for a lead-giving touchdown. The on-field officials immediately ruled the play a fumble and a touchdown, but the replay official wanted a better look.

The officials determined that upon review, “We had a lot of good looks on it. We put on fast motion and slow motion. The player did not complete the process of the catch, so, therefore, the pass was incomplete.

“After the video, instant replay in the stadium as well as back at the video center, they both looked at it slow and fast and they determined when he moved, the ball was becoming loose in his hands and he did not complete the process of the catch.”

Those officials were correct in that the ball was moving when Okudah was knocking it out of Ross’ hands, but since he never brought the ball in and was instead trying to break a tackle, they ruled that he never had possession.

Speaking of possession, here is what the NCAA rule book says.

Sec. 4, Article 1, a) The ball is in player possession when a player has the ball firmly in his grasp by holding or controlling it with hand(s) or arm(s) while contacting the ground inbounds.

Now, possession and a catch aren’t exactly the same thing, so we should also clarify what a catch is by rule.

Sec. 4, Article 3, a, 1-3) To catch a ball means that a player:

1. Secures firm control with the hand(s) or arm(s) of a live ball in flight before the ball touches the ground, and

2. Touches the ground in bounds with any part of his body, and then

3. Maintains control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform an act common to the game, i.e., long enough to pitch or hand the ball, advance it, avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.

Ken Williamson, who was the referee from the Fiesta Bowl who spoke to a pool reporter after the game (and just so you know, 100% of the time a referee has to answer questions from the pool reporter it means that they are one of the main stories of the game) said that Ross didn’t complete the process of the catch.

What people keep referring to is that Ross didn’t make a football move.

The term “football move” is not found in the NCAA rulebook however. What the qualification actually is “perform an act common to the game.”

You know, like warding off an opponent from getting to the football.

Ross was literally doing one of the things that is in the rule book to constitute a completed catch.

The irony is that if Ross had been in the end zone, they likely would have ruled it a completion and a touchdown because the rules are different there for some reason.

From Rule 7, ARTICLE 6. Any forward pass is complete when caught by a player of the passing team who is inbounds, and the ball continues in play unless completed in the opponent’s end zone or the pass has been caught simultaneously by opposing players.

And if you want a visual representation of what this rule looks like, we can stay in the greater Phoenix area for last week’s Cheez-It Bowl.

And this brings us to America’s worst game show — CATCH, NOT A CATCH!

This is ruled a catch.

This is ruled not a catch.

Ross had much more security on the football than Washington State’s Max Borghi did, but because it happened in the end zone, the play was ruled dead as soon as the feet were down and the ball was secured.

And now you know what a catch is.

Of course, until the replay officials know what a catch is, nothing really matters.

37 Responses

  1. Tony, you are 100% wrong. You fell for the bullsh#& the ref fed the reporter. From the front view, you can see that he had firm control with both hands for at least four steps. He couldn’t “bring it in” and he didn’t have to bring in it to establish control. He was not bobbling the ball. It was all at very high speed but slow motion clearly showed the ball was stable in his hands.His hands were moving but not the ball within his hands.
    It disappoints me that you were duped by his irrelevancies. Many ex referees and even the National Coordinator of referees have said the replay erred and it was a catch and a fumble.

    1. Paul, if you thought I was in support of that terrible call, I apologize for not being more clear.

  2. Yes that was a catch and a-strip by okudah, should have been a TD by fuller. But that just puts us up 22-21,still will need another score more than likely. Our D may have been gassed, or maybe just the LB’s? Browning was chasing ball carriers downfield all night,lol. Yea lets play Browning more,solve all our problems. For every great play he disappears for the next 4. Hardest position to play in football MLB. You would have thought Brendan White would have been next man at least when we play 6 db’s, or the dime package? Which we used a few times the last few weeks, plus we had to go to 2 reserves plus a nickle package without wade vs wisconsin.

  3. As a High School official we are taught to not insert ourselves into the game. Our best games are when we are “unnoticed.” In other words, our actions did not determine the outcome. Clearly this was not the case in the OSU/Clemson game. There was a blatant disregard for the (catch) rule and instant replay rule that states there must be clear evidence to overturn a call on the field. Both rules were disregarded. Questionable, as well, were the non-calls on face mask by the offense against Chase Young. The targeting call was questionable….had Trevor Lawrence not ducked his head against the smaller player there would have been no way he would have been hit in the shoulder/head area!

  4. I have another idea to help this, not solve it. If the refs for these games are the best from the conference and do not necessarily work on the same crew all the time, why do we not have the best of EVERY conference as the officials? Why just have SEC officials for this game? Why not have the best of the PAC 12, BIG 12 and SEC working this game? To not have officials from the conferences says something. Why not have checks and balances from all of the conferences?

  5. All these comments and no one mentions that after that play, they punted and we scored on the following drive? So the same basic result happened but just cost us time.
    As much as everyone wants to complain about the refs (and I agree it’s valid criticism) we were still in a position to win the game at the end. So if anyone thinks that it was “rigged” by ESPN or whoever else your conspiracy theories believe are at fault for our loss… you are idiots.
    Clemson was a terrific team and played tough… and if Olave runs his route instead of breaking off, we probably win the game.

    1. So it should have been two scores instead of one is what you are saying? Agreed.

  6. Over the last few years we are seeing more and more blown calls or no-calls. I doubt that refs are biased, there are just too many incompetent refs. That includes the ones in the booth. Allegedly referee performance is graded and analyzed jut like player performance. The NCAA and the NFL needs to make that public Based on that, teams should have the right to disqualify a ref before the game just as an attorney has the right to disqualify a juror.

  7. There are two problems.
    First, there was no indisputable evidence to overturn the ruling on the field of a catch and fumble.
    Second, the officials completely ignored the clear wording of the rule which is
    “or ward off an opponent” meaning that alone is sufficient. Clearly the Clemson receiver was warding off an opponent.
    In both cases, ruling on the field stands, fumble and recovery for a Buckeye touchdown which should have given Ohio State 6 points plus the extra point kick for 7 and the win. These officials are were clearly biased (see the ignored repeated holding of Chase Young’s face mask).

  8. Since we no longer have the traditional bowl games, why not move some of the playoff games north to some sites as the Lucas Dome and the one in Detroit and give some us damn yankees a chance at these games. The playoffs were supposed to eliminate the old voting for the national champions. Now we have people who don’t know the rules or make their biased decisions. Make a football move-not a term I ever heard before. Unless they think the game was played on a basketball court. Bring back the voting system, it worked just as well.

  9. How many OSU fans/B10 fans will boycott the championship game with me? I would have watched and rooted for JB but given the fact that an SEC ref crew screwed us out of a chance to beat LSU I have no interest – zero – nada – nicht in staying up late on a work night to make ESPN, SEC, ACC and their associated schools and officials richer. I include B10 fans because it is an affront to every B10 school who lives with the BS that the “worst teams in the SEC could beat most B10 teams”.

    Oh by the way, the head of the SEC officiating has now been made head of all NCAA football officiating so cheer up, it will only get worse

    1. I’m CERTAINLY not going to watch it. The corruption of the NCAA, in collusion with officials of the SEC and the ACC is stark and obvious, along with the worthless clowns of ESPiN.

  10. Cheated by the officials is what it is. Having conflicted officials in the replay booth is like foxes guarding the henhouse. This system is so corrupt I can’t support it. Giving a Replay Booth manned by partisans undisputed, unappealable power is a huge mistake. Who elected them pope? ESPN, I guess.

  11. So he had possession, was engaged in warding off a defender, and the ball was knocked loose: it’s a fumble. It’s enough to be called that way on the field. And replay is to not reverse unless there is indisputable evidence to the contrary, which there is not. It’s a fumble.

  12. If Ross’s third step was out of bounds, guaranteed that’s ruled a catch ball spotted where he went out of bounds.

    1. The ball came out before he reached the sideline. The ball landed about two feet in bounds. The most egregious thing is that while it was a bang bang play, No one could ever say there was indisputable evidence that it was not a catch. And that is the requirement to overturn the call on the field.

  13. The issue in my mind is INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE. The call on the field was fumble with immediate recovery by the other team. The onus is on the replay official to find INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE that the call on the field was wrong. If it’s not indisputable, if there is a “maybe he did catch it” or there is a shadow of a doubt, the call is supposed to stand, because replay does not trump the real time call unless there is INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE. I really think the NCAA needs to go back and teach these goobers what the definition of that means….

    1. Agreed. I didn’t think they had indisputable evidence to overturn Dobbins TD either. They ignored the indisputable evidence part on both overturned plays and nobody noticed.

  14. Thanks for posting the text book version of the rule, which makes the official explanation look pretty weak.
    I’ll add my 2 cents.
    The rules “expert” in the broadcast booth said “he did not have time to make a football move, when you look at these things in slow motion you can make anything look like a catch. At regular speed speed he did not finish the catch.”
    When the same person was asked to define what a “football move ” is he said,”I want to see him turn up field , take some steps, I want to see him dive, I don’t see enough in this turn, when he is hit and the ball comes out, I’ve got an incomplete pass.”
    I’m aware that this guy isn’t the one who actually made the decision but the very fact he is an official and said what he said, only demonstrates how rules and the language they are written in ,are subject to the reading comprehension skills of the people who enforce them.
    “He did not have time………….At regular speed he did not finish the catch” Where in the rule does it say anything about time and if at regular speed he did not have time to finish the catch ,why bother to look at the play in slow motion? Perhaps it is to see, if the receiver actually did any of things listed in the written rule.
    Truthfully, I didn’t think it was a catch when it happened but after I saw the replay I thought it was a catch, precisely because we had time to see what happened.
    “when you look at these things in slow motion you can make anything look like a catch.”
    Really, how so? It isn’t a photograph for god sake, one can go through it frame by frame, for lack of a better phrase, to see if comports with the rule book definition.
    “I want to see him turn up field” “I don’t see enough in this turn” So he did turn up field but not enough ? How much is enough.
    “take some steps” He did count them, even though he “didn’t have time to.”
    It is hard enough to swallow a bad call but at least the official on the field has to do it in real time so I can accept missed calls. It is much harder to take ,when a ruling is handed down with the benefit of replay, in a litigious word salad that contradicts the rule as it was written.

    1. Bullshit on regular speed,vs. slow motion making a difference.
      Slow motion just clarifies what what the human eye cannot see in real time. If he took four steps,in slow mo, he also took four steps at,full,speed.
      All that jibber is was just an attempt by a rogue (or at least incompetent) ref to sell his piss poor call.

      1. To be clear, I agree with you completely.
        My point being, that this “expert” demonstrated his ignorance of the rule as it is written.
        I have to say I had never read the rule before Tony posted this but after reading it by the letter, there is no way to say this was not a catch.
        The “expert” said, they only watch such plays at regular speed, which is totally nonsensical and raises all sorts a question.
        Is this universally the case? Is it dictated by the individual conference?
        I simply can’t see any logical connection between the rule is at is written and the claim there wasn’t enough time for the catch to be completed.
        Before there was film, many people didn’t believe a running horse had all four legs off the ground at times. Slow motion left no doubt.
        The same should have applied in this case if they bothered to look.
        BTW, That same “expert ” was equally full of himself during the Rose Bowl.

  15. What football move? There IS no such animal as a football move in the rules book………I think Tony laid that out pretty well. Another questionable call. If I’m a receiver………….ALL I have to do is possess the ball in the field of play. If I so much as touch the pylon………….it’s a TD and it makes no difference what happens once it’s touched because crossing into the endzone IS a TD.

    JK’s catch crossed the plain of the endzone with the ball in his clear possession. The play is over right at that point of crossing. Makes no difference WHAT he does with the ball afterwards.

    That too was a TD.

    1. Same group of Goobers from the SEC that put an extra second on the clock at the end of the 1st half to allow Auburn to kick a FG against Nick Satan and his Bama boys. That’s the class the SEC sends to officiate a game. ESPN loved it so LSU has a better chance to win the whole thing.

      1. If I’m in the Big 10 offices I tell any Bowl committee, whether it’s a CFP playoff or the damned Egg McMuffin Bowl…….we will not play any game officiated by SEC officials……..EVER from ANY of our Conference Programs.

  16. Frustrations with the officiating usually just doesn’t revolve around one call, but a number of them while the other team seems to be penalty free; Dobbin’s catch in the end zone is over ruled and incomplete, Wade’s hit is targeting, but wasn’t called on the field. Twice, blatant and prolonged face masking against Young were not called. Interference near the end zone on the next play after Wade’s ejection, OSU roughed the punter for 15 yards, then this play. It looked really close to me, and the there must be indiispu……Oh never mind. To me, it’s salt in the wound from a ‘what if oh so close type of game.’

  17. 1- Ross had the ball firmly in his hands from the start and 2- he made 3 or 4 steps trying to avoid the defender while protecting the ball (holding it out away from the defender) and 3- he did not bobble the ball for even a moment and 4- after he brought the ball down to the side of his body it was then stripped. These are the facts shown in the video!

    1. One foot down, two feet down and then bringing the first foot back for another step down with no bobble and that is not a football move? Getting not just both feet down but then taking another step all with the ball held tightly is moving with the football (a football move!) – then comes the strip. A non catch is a horrible call!

  18. Justyn Ross immediately recognized that he had been striped. Look at how quickly he came back onto the field to attempt the tackle.

    1. Most of you all are missing the point. It doesn’t matter if it was a catch or not. Everyone in America including the replay ref knows the meaning of the word indisputable. He blatantly and intentionally disregarded the established rules.

      I had a large block of tickets, they showed lots of replays, and all my family and friends said there’s no way they could overturn the call. I just told them you have not been watching the game – I guarantee they will. The refs were clearly crooked. It was not a judgment call, the refs did all they could to fix the game.

      I faxed a letter to the NCAA Prez asking him how this unprecedented disregard of the rules could happen. And why there was no system in place to overrule a clearly crooked replay ref. Maybe the rest of Buckeye Nation should flood his office with similar complaints.

  19. It was a catch! It was a fumble! It was a Td! Get an attorney and sue and win in court. If I had extreme powers I would send these officials and some clemson players to a third world prison and tell the commandants or dictators do what you must. Dabo included!

  20. Not only did the receiver ward off an opponent, he advanced the ball 3+ steps. You – and Ken Williamson – can watch this play a thousand times and you won’t see the ball move in the receiver’s hands before it’s knocked loose by Okudah.

    With Williamson admitting the video was clear and they saw it in slo-mo, the only conclusion seems to be a deliberate cheat followed by a CYA lie to the media.

    Can Williamson point out the ball movement? I doubt it.

    He should at least scrape together enough integrity to admit what he did, as the PAC12 replay official did several years ago.

  21. Maybe need to look at who these guys bet on

  22. just disgusting how anyone cild overturn this.. extremely derelict in their duties and it cost the Buckeyes a probably title

  23. Tony- you are right and will always be right on this issue. The replay official totally blew it, despite having every possible advantage AND 1/50 the work load of the field officials- who were correct on the call. The phrase “warding off an opponent” would seem a tiny bit important in this equation. Then again, however, I’m sure the replay guy had NEVER seen this scenario despite his stated job duties. 30-29 Buckeyes if the replay guy is just a 4 on a scale of 10, rather than a zero.

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