Referees Explain Controversial Fiesta Bowl Targeting, Fumble Calls

Fiesta Bowl Jordan Fuller fumble return Ohio State Buckeyes

The 2019 Fiesta Bowl had a little bit of everything, from big plays to near misses, dramatic comebacks, and controversial calls.

Two decisions by the replay officials during the game drew particular ire.

The first was a targeting call against Shaun Wade late in the second quarter.

It not only cost the Buckeyes the services of one of their top defenders, but also extended a Clemson drive that would have been facing a 4th-and-13. That ultimately led to the Tigers’ first touchdown.

The second was a nearly inexplicable overturn of a scoop-and-score touchdown by Jordan Fuller that briefly appeared to give the Buckeyes the lead in the third quarter.

This is NBC’s football rules expert Terry McAulay’s take on that play.

Here was his take on the targeting call.

After the game, referee Ken Williamson met with a pool reporter to explain both calls. You can find those explanations below.

Q. The targeting call, wondered if you could tell me, what criteria did you use to make the call? Did you consider it a close call or fairly clear?

REFEREE KEN WILLIAMSON: This was a crown-of-the-helmet targeting foul. So it did eliminate a lot of other factors. Initial contact was with the crown of the helmet. Then he wrapped up for the tackle. So at that point, targeting was properly called.

Q. Can you remind me if the call was made on the field?

REFEREE KEN WILLIAMSON: Replay initiated it and they made the call.

Q. Speaking of replay, the catch, fumble, touchdown that was overturned, did you view the play from multiple angles in slow motion during the replay process? Do you have a lot of angles?

REFEREE KEN WILLIAMSON: 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.

Q. When we looked at it — of course, we are not looking at it with the same eyes you do. When we’re looking at it, he’s got the ball in both hands and both of his feet were on the ground and he made at least one step and maybe more. So to us, we couldn’t understand. Maybe you can explain it a little bit clearer.

REFEREE KEN WILLIAMSON: 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.

Q. So you’re talking about the move once he’s back down on the ground?


36 Responses

  1. As a life long Buckeye fan I would say QB play had as much to do with the loss as anything else. Twice he was running for a first down and slid short a lot short. The QB from Clemson lowered his head and made the down. Fields should not have been in the running for the Heisman. I believe the OSU coaches have a lot of explaining to do over letting Burrow get away.

  2. Love how this character goes from we to they when he’s explaining the catch and fumble.

  3. Love how this character goes from we to they when he’s explaining the catch and fumble.

  4. I too commented on Twitter about the OBVIOUS HOLDING AND FACE MASK removing attempts on chase youngs helmet. There were several VERY OBVIOUS BAD CALLS, MISSED CALLS, and FAKE CALLS(FALSE START ON MYERS 4 1) How many times have fans 4 or against seen players score TDs just like Dobbins td? It doesn’t matter what happens after the ball crosses the goal line, it’s a TD. Once the ball crosses the line, any part of the line, it’s a TD. It doesn’t matter if a player knocks the ball out of the hand, if they hit someone in the endzone when they dive and lose control it doesn’t matter TD. How many times do RBs jump over the pile and loose the ball when landing? But it’s still a TD. SAD, HORRIBLE AND ATROCIOUS OFFICIATING once it was obvious who was taking control of the game. I feel sorry for the kids who put in the work, blood, sweat, and tears all year only for the refs to decide the game for them no matter how well they play. SO SAD!!!! and always
    GO BUCKS!!!!!!

  5. The zebras for the game should not have any allegiance to any conference represented in any of the three games of the FBS Championship. The crew should have been from PAC12, Mountain West, MAC,.., not SEC, B1G, ACC or Big 12. Too much possibility (as we saw last night, IMO) of a bias having an effect on the outcome. Time for someone to lose their job(s) over this one. Fargin’ ridiculous…

  6. It’s all part of the corrupt media – it’s all about money and power. The outcome was dictated by greed.
    Woody said never allow yourself to be in a position for the referees to determine the outcome. We score 3 touchdowns (or 2) rather than field goals and the result may be different.

  7. The SEC crew wanted no chance that OSU would beat the SEC team so the fix was in….too many bad calls…

    1. It’s a sad situation when the officials feel they should decide the games . These were not bad calls these were dishonest calls . There is a difference when the officials do it on purpose that’s dishonest and jobs should be lost

  8. the Dobbins catch passing over the goal line–why was that not explained better? looked like he had control passing the goal line and shoulda been a TD..and the roughing the kicker 15 yards shoulda been 5–look at it from the side angle and the punter goes into the osu player as much..but the main horrible call–and the replay booth is to blame for half of the najor bad calls/review of target..was the obvious catch and fumble return for a matter what else OSU did or didnt do, the reffing DID cause the outcome of this game as well–that one play alone makes it 3-29 OSU and thats how it shoulda ended….replay official flat out SUCKED..this isn’t making excuses and OSU shot themselves in the foot and clemson made plays–but the facts are that the ref/replay booth screwed OSU out of a victory as well and that stings even more

  9. I get tired of fan trying to lay blame where it doesn’t exist or always blaming the referring crew. If you’ve ever coached or played you’ve heard the phrase “don’t leave it up to the officials” hundreds of times. Just because you’re a big fan and really want this team to win doesn’t give you the right to come up with BS justifications on perceived blown call you normally wouldn’t argue for if watching any other game besides OSU.

    The Ref did not make Wade lead with the crown of his helmet, Wade did that all in his own, with no sign of trying to remove his head from the play. He mad the call easy for the replay crew.

    The Ref did not cause Dobbins to lose control what could’ve been a touchdown. By rule Dobbins was clearly going to the ground in the process of the catch and lost the ball, the ball must be controlled thru the process of going to the ground. Made it easy for the replay booth once again.

    The referees did not cause the OSU player to hit the kicker while he was still in the air, the player did!

    If you want to lay blame, blame it on the lack of focus and execution in the red zone!
    Blame it on the defensive coaches for never putting in adjustment to account for Lawrence running the ball. It like they didn’t believe he would continue to run the ball, sure fooled the hell out of them. Blame it on tackling, which had become suspect since the begging of November.

    So be different and avoid the easy road of blaming the officials, this team had MANY opportunities to burry Clemson early in the game and didn’t do it!

    On to Basketball and look forward to next football season! Go Buckeyes!!!!

    1. What about the fumble that was a fumble resulting in a TD. That’s my only legit complaint.

      1. I didn’t mention that because I agree with you on that, however we still blew so many opportunities to burry them early in the first half!

        1. Dean, you may be right about us making so many mistakes but the fact is the reversed scoop and score cost us the game. The maddening thing is this reversal was so obviously WRONG.
          The Clemson receiver caught the ball cleanly with both hands and maintained sole control of the ball for at least three steps before our guy knocked the ball loose.
          As always, the coaches and players are held accountable for their mistakes but referees never are. In my opinion, Williamson is just full of bulls#$&. No way was that ball “coming out” for the first few steps.

          1. If he had taken those same 3 steps and went out of bounds, I bet it would have been a completion.

          2. After more time to consider Williamson’s comments, I would like to revise my opinion: Williamson is just a lying sack of garbage. How stupid does he think we are? Let me him run a video of the play with him standing there with a pointer showing exactly when the receiver lost control of the ball. And remember the criteria for reversals is 100% certainty.

    2. Dean- were you on the replay crew last night? Geesh, sounds like it… For starters, no one in this section is questioning the obvious calls you mentioned. The Okudah/Fuller call you conveniently failed to mention in your manifesto, however, DECIDED THE GAME! Hello?….
      Your logic about not scoring in the red zone also is flawed. At least OSU was showing control and scoring! Clemson had ZERO points and were being handled until the Wade nonsense. And-let’s make this clear- Lawrence lowered his helmet into Wade, who is shorter than Lawrence. Wade isn’t a praying mantis, he can’t rotate his head 180 degrees to avoid contact.
      Many games are decided on the field, good and bad. This one wasn’t. That’s the complaint and it’s real. Even Gene Smith- who wouldn’t say “poop” if he had a mouthful of it- has publicly complained. Stop with the blanket statements and examine the context. OSUs players played well enough to win, as evidenced by outgaining and out- first downing Clem. This one is on the guys who are paid NOT to do what they did last night.

    1. Jim – As Willy Nelson once said “If I knew who THEY were I woulda shot them 5 years ago. Follow the money then you tell me

  10. In the old days – if you wanted to fix a game you got a player to either hand off high or low, or fumble or…..

    Much cheaper and more effective to have a ref (s) on the payroll.

  11. 1st of all, when I signed up for this group I agreed to not use foul language. Therefore, when I say something like fudging motherfudging smickdoking SUC referees please read between the lines.

    False start called on Meyers 5 minutes in while players were shifting and Meyers was calling out protection – BULLDUNG!!!!

    Dobbins catches ball on 3 yard line launches into end zone – reaches out to break the plane, touch down. Never mind that he hits the ground and THEN the ball wiggles. IT WAS ALREADY A CATCH AND A TOUCHDOWN. Ken Williamson saying the ball was “getting loose in his hands” only goes to prove that the SUC referees are bald-faced liars with a VESTED interest in trying to control who plays their SUC team in the CFP

    Clemson receiver catches a ball, draws it in to his body while making a football move forward – gets stripped for a scoop and score only to get it called back because it happened so fast that there was “not enough time” to be a completed pass, only goes to prove that the SUC referees are bald-faced liars with a VESTED interest in trying to control who plays their SUC team in the CFP.

    How do you stop Chase Young? Take a page from the playbooks of everyone who played us from mid-season on – hold him. Hold the scheist out of him because the refs feel a little holding is only fair to help “equalize” the unfair advantage Chase has over everyone else – and THEY WILL NOT CALL IT.

    Listening to Chris Fowler and Kirk Turdstreet justify these bulldung calls and noncalls makes me want to vomit. I would prefer Mark May.

    Call me a homer if you want, but there is a long history of bad referee-ing against OSU. Remember Boom Heron being pushed back into the end zone and getting called for a safety because he made a “football move” while he was falling down thus negating the forward progress? Don’t even get me started on last year – there were so many.

    I am going to come out and say it. There is an unholy conspiracy against OSU. Whether it is because the SUC/ESUCPN relationship is trying to maintain dominance or because Vegas has some interest or both – it is obvious. Ref crews should be picked from conferences that have no skin in the game at the very least. Refs should be audited to see how much payola they are accepting.

    Call me crazy if you want – I don’t give a dung.

    1. One flaw with the above statement(s); if teams from mid season on were holding chase young in order to stop him, why didn’t the coaches tweak the scheme to prevent him from being stopped? Best defensive player in the country. Best defensive line coach in the country. Another arguably great defensive line coach is our co-coordinator, with 50 years of experience. The definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result. It wasn’t being called in the previous 4-5 games, by B1G officials. It was, in your own words “stopping” Chase Young from doing what he does best, so why not tweak the scheme a little bit?
      One other point: why didn’t they have a backup plan/scheme in place in case one of our all-world starting defensive backs had to leave the game, either thru targeting, or injury? Again, the last 5-6 games of the season, our defense was a touch less dominant than they had been, minus first Arnette, who didn’t travel for a game or two, then Jeff Okudah, and finally Wade. This was honestly my 2nd biggest fear headed into this game (Fields leaving on a stretcher in the first half being numero uno), and if we’d just experienced it for the previous 5-6 games, then why wasn’t a plan out in place, with nearly 3 weeks to prepare?
      I get it, this is a first time coaching staff for the most part. Nobody coaching this team had ever even been to a playoff game except LJ. There was a ton of other shtick that went wrong and yes, the refs didn’t help. But, live and learn. I’m hoping they plan better next year when we’re back.

  12. I don’t usually blame, complain, or defend when we lose but the targeting and the scoop & score being overturned were very bad decisions by the officials. I do agree that the re-play booth official as well as the refs on the field should be fired from their jobs. It is called accountability.

  13. “the ball was becoming loose in his hands” The ball doesn’t move AT ALL until Okudah knocks it loose after three steps are taken. Williamson is simply lying at this point.

  14. Why should the officials come from the SEC to Ref a southern team? Officials from the west coast should ref games involving southern teams, not refs from the south.

  15. Officials are human not always correct. The WORST call of the night was trying to block a punt when a ‘big play’ was unnecessary.

    1. Duane- you are exactly the type of apologist these folks want. First off, thanks for clarifying the officials are human, we had no idea. Second, those humans made calls on the field and were indeed correct. They were overturned- TWICE- by other humans who phoned in from another state to dictate the outcome of a game. We can agree to disagree about the targeting, but the fumble/return for TD was an atrocious misuse of replay. The standard to overturn is “indisputable evidence”. If you can find indisputable evidence that the Clem receiver didn’t have control, then you are watching a different game. The fumble return should never have been questioned- let alone overturned. That way, even with Clem’s final TD and 2 point conversion, the score would still have been OSU 30 Clem 29. The guys PAID to officiate the game blew it again on the biggest stage- period.

    2. If that punt was blocked and OSU had recovered the ball in the endzone and got a TD, then it’s a great call by Ryan Day. I remember Olave blocking a punt in the MI game last year in Columbus and we scored off of it. It just didn’t work this time.

  16. Wonder when the refs will explain the lengthy and blatant face mask against Chase Young that very same play as the targeting call. It happened earlier in the game when he was being double teamed. Those seemed very painful.but no call. Can’t argue against the targeting and that blatant no call is what Day should have been concerned about. Not sure the refs reviewed the same play as the Clemson fumble.

    1. @Kurt.

      The hands to the face / face mask was so obvious that it’s inexplicable how the officials missed the call especially when you consider that it happened right next to the QB. If called it would have negated the targeting penalty and 3rd down would have been replayed.

      I watched with my OSU hating family (painful) and they all agreed with the scoop and score call on the field. Three steps and a fumble.

      1. They also missed Chase Young wrapping one arm around the QB’s throat and hip-tossing him, by the throat, on that same targeting call/facemask non-call. They also missed and obvious back elbow from 39 (Tuf) to the QB’s knee from a seated position, after again coming up just short of a sack. I’m glad they missed those calls (cause I’m half homer), but the Dirty South didn’t have a monopoly on dirty play in this game.

    2. Kurt Mews- I respectfully disagree about the targeting. In the first semi final, when LSU played that high school team, a player was ejected for targeting and it was RIGHT. The offending player launched himself at an uninvolved and defenseless LSU player from behind with the clear intent to hurt him. In the OSU example, there was no foul called on the field (!!) and Wade struck Clem’s whiney QB only because the QB ducked his head at the last second, making it impossible for Wade to strike anywhere else. Unless defensive players are going to be taught to unscrew their heads from their necks before tackling somebody, their helmet MUST strike that person in some form or fashion, even if briefly. It was a ridiculous decision initiated by “the booth” that totally changed the outcome of the game. (The whiney QB who acted like he had been hit by a truck missed ONE play, by the way). Garbage.

  17. The attempted punt block looks more look running into the punter than roughing. Watch the video and see how he is pulling up and runs into him rather than it being a personal foul.

  18. Both calls were complete HS. How much did the replay official have riding on the game?

  19. Ohio State should not stay silent on the fumble call and the big ten should complain. Someone needs to lose their job, an apology should be issued and the big ten needs to have a big day in not only who the refs are, but also the TV rules expert should be. There is possible conflict of interest involved and changes have to result from this.

    1. Wee- Agree 100 percent that someone needs to PUBLICLY light up the replay people and OSU should at least request that they never work another OSU game. There will be people who argue that “the officials don’t win or lose games” or that “you can’t leave it in the hands of the officials”. Those people are WRONG. Last night a replay crew totally determined the outcome of the game in a very clear way- first by giving life to Clemson, then by sustaining it when OSU returned that fumble for a TD. It’s actually pretty simple- when there is that much attention on the officials during a game, multiple times, they are screwing up. People can call it sour grapes all they want- the grapes are real though.

  20. Nonsense. The NCAA should fire the replay guy.

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