A mistake by the crew led by referee Penn Wagers was confirmed by SEC supervisor of officials Steve Shaw late Saturday night. So how does Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema feel about that?
"Frustrated," Bielema said at his Monday media briefing. "But you can't worry about it. You move forward."
Bielema called Shaw after he finished taping his coaches show Saturday night after a 14-13 loss to Alabama. He covered that error in the final seconds of the loss when Alabama was penalized for procedure. The clock should not have restarted and Alabama would have been forced to punt.
Bielema and Shaw covered some other procedure mistakes that took place in the game, including problems getting a dry ball onto the field for every play with light rain falling and a wet field from day-long storms.
There were questions about the frustration of a long SEC losing streak. Does that create negativity inside the program and how does Bielema combat that problem?
"No, I think the negative effect comes from those that don't live in our program," he said. "I get it.
"I totally understand the question. I actually was talking with a person in our profession who shares the same title that I have that kind of just made reference to 'Man, it's impressive to watch your guys keep coming, keep coming the way that they did.'
"I read a text to our guys from Charlie Partridge who obviously is a head coach now and sat back, they had a bye week and watched our team play and was very complimentary. I think that is a thing that from the outside world looking in maybe you get amazed at but I am not concerned the least bit as a head coach.
The frustration with the officials seems to be more of a problem, but Bielema respects the job Shaw has done and was pleased with the communication after the game, but not with Wagers, who was off the field in a hurry with the runoff of the clock.
"I give a lot of credit to Steve Shaw," Bielema said. "As is the case in everything in this league, the SEC handles it as well as anything I've ever witnessed. I called Steve Saturday night after the game, after I got done with my TV show, taping that. On the drive home, I called Steve and expressed some concerns that I had.
"That's when he kind of informed me that I was in the right, that there was a failure there at the end of the game to pursue the way that we should have. I tried to communicate that to the officials, because I knew it could go upstairs. I knew we could get a replay and make the situation right. But they kind of scurried off the field very quickly, so … the best situation out of a situation like that is this — that we all learn. As coaches we learn, as players we learn, as officials we learn. And I think it's a great indicator of why this league is so special.
"It's frustrating. But I can't worry about things I can't control. I can control what we do, and obviously the SEC is controlling this situation very well. The head ref is a very well decorated guy that's been in this league for a long time, been in this profession a long time.
"I know it wasn't done intentionally or on purpose, but in every game there's a few things that always come up. I was very frustrated in the first quarter when we couldn't get a ball in. We didn't get a dry ball in for that field goal opportunity, and I made my point, and it got corrected from that point forward. But my only issue was, it didn't' happen until that came across and however that needed to get relayed to the officials, which happened basically from that possession forward, we had a dry ball the whole time.
"So, we all learned. I always tell our players, hey, on Saturday players play, coaches coach and officials officiate. That's obviously taking place."
Bielema didn't sound as frustrated about his inability to get a timeout called when he ran onto the field ahead of the go-ahead touchdown by Alabama in the fourth quarter. But he did offer a solution to Shaw. But he admitted it was still on the list of painful experiences from the game.
"I would say the next most frustrating play was – and I know you guys may have eluded to it and I watched myself on film 20 times, I’ve watched that play trying to get that timeout called," he said. "They went from an 11 personnel to a 22 and they went right to the line of scrimmage. The ref did the T, but he held it just for a split second.
"We tried to get our guys in place, but they weren’t in place off of the quick snap. And they released it. I asked for clarification, why did you release it? he said you guys were in place.
"I’m like, we were the Chinese fire drill right there. we were running around. So I’m working on my 40.
"I’m going to propose – I honestly believe this wholeheartedly – I think, because the same thing happened to me at Wisconsin. We were running out of time on the clock and I knew we were not going to get the play off in time. so I tried to come down and run down and call timeout. They never saw me. We got a delay of game. so it backed us up five.
"The NFL, you’ve got officials flags, right? You can throw that baby from wherever you want and they can go back and do it. I’m going to propose either we get flags or give me a whistle. In a situation that I know that I want to call, let me just start blowing the whistle because I get it, you know?
"You’ve got guys on my sideline, they’re looking in. the guy in the back corner, they always tell me to go for the back judge. Well, guess what? That back judge was locked into the play clock. It’s not the officials’ fault. They’re all locked into what … if the guy that never saw me saw me, that would mean that his eyes weren’t where they were supposed to be. So I think it’s just a flaw in our system.
"It’s nobody’s fault. I can be faster, I guess. But I saw the tv copy and lane saying, ‘snap it, snap it, snap it.’ I mean, so they’re trying to go as fast as they can, which ends up being a touchdown go-ahead play.”
Bielema said he met with running back Alex Collins before the game to let him know his punishment for missing two weight lifting sessions over the last two weeks would be no play in the first quarter. Collins missed the first quarter of the Mississippi State game last year for something similar. Bielema said Collins knew there would be a penalty, but didn't know what until the meeting.
"Alex had been extremely good," Bielema said. "And still to this day he's been good all year in the classroom. He had a bad stretch there, and when that shows up, it's bad for everybody.
"By far, he probably had his worst performance on Saturday, and it was almost kind of like one of those situations where you see coming. As a head coach, I knew it was coming, I actually brought him in Saturday when we got to the stadium, into my locker room, and expressed where he's at and why things were going to happen.
"The good news is, I think from Saturday moving forward, yesterday he was awesome. I talked to a lot of people in his life that are trying to help him through these situations, and he's been very, very positive since that point. The whole thing we've just got to do is growth. He hasn't done anything wrong."
Bielema went through the timeline of Collins' missed workouts.
"The Friday of our bye week what we did is we practiced Tues-Wed-Thurs and our kids knew all along, because you know during a bye week I like to give guys a chance, they can go home, do whatever," Bielema said. "They knew they were going to have a Friday morning, early morning workout. We had a 5 a.m. workout with our developmental guys. Everybody was at that. Then we had a 6 a.m. workout with our travel roster and that was the one that he missed and failed to show for the entire day.
"Then the following week was on a Thursday we have some voluntary lift times that they specifically set the lift times themselves and he had set that and been at every Thursday morning workout for the entire season all the way up to that one.
Did he forget?
"He had a big test at 11 o'clock," Bielema said. "He was actually in our academic center at 8 a.m., but alls he's got to do is communicate and everyone else is going to be all right."
Bielema was asked about punt returner D.J. Dean letting several punts fall and roll, resulting in poor field position for the Hogs for most of the night.
“It was wet," Bielema said. “D.J. (Dean) had fielded the ball really well for us. I'm in charge of that unit.
"We had four different looks. We had an eight-man front that was effective. Really on the very first punt, I wish it was a catchable ball because we had a nice (return set). But they were punting the ball out of bounds.
"They were punting it directionally quite a bit. They were doing certain things before the snap to tell you where the ball was going. We just weren't able to get a handle on it. There were two occasions where we had two back because we really wanted to get something going. But they obviously struggled. They put three balls on the ground in that one unit. We had seen some things on film that that might happen."
Bielema was worried more about slipping on the wet field than mishandling the ball.
“Two things, usually on a kicking situations everyone wants a new ball, no one goes fast on kicking situation, even Oregon or Auburn," he said. "It was never really a heavy rainstorm. That was kind of the debate that I was getting into debate in the first quarter. Coach, it's not a heavy rain. I know it's not a heavy rain, but it's raining all day.
"My jersey is wet, my kids are wet. I was more worried about D.J. having a slick surface, he tries to catch the ball and his feet slip out from under him. Or, running and trying to make a difficult catch and all of a sudden the ball is on the ground. I just didn't want to put ourselves in a difficult situation.”
Bielema did field questions with a positive switch. He was asked if he was surprised by the play of AJ Derby, the tight end converted from quarterback with a 54-yard TD catch and run.
“My corn-fed guy?" Bielema said. "It isn’t (a surprise).
"I wish he would have, well I’m glad he didn’t take up my offer to come to Wisconsin, because then I wouldn’t have him now.
"When I offered him out of high school, I told him and his dad, and I love his dad, Kelly and John are great friends, and I just said he finally is at the position that probably is what is intended for him. He just literally every day you see him go forward. I had no idea. I knew he scored, but there was so much pandemonium going on that I didn’t get a chance to see the end of it until later that night in the highlight.
"And then Sunday I saw it on film. Just, he was not going to be denied once he caught that ball. And he’s outrunning Alabama DBs. I mean, he probably made himself a nice little coin package on that play right there.
"Now, and he really amped up his intensity level, too. He kind of had been a quarterback playing tight end up until that point, no offense to former quarterbacks. But he kind of got a little down and dirty on Saturday and played with a little intensity that I think they needed to see him play with.”
Clock Mistake Frustrates Bielema
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