Florida Follow-Up

Players fume over officiating. As of Sunday morning, no disciplinary action had been handed down to ACC referees....

Building up and boiling over, the frustrations were growing too quickly to control.

Florida linebacker Channing Crowder bolted from under the pile with the ball in his hands, certain he'd recovered a fumble by Florida State tailback Leon Washington on the Gators' goal line.

But when referees ruled Washington picked up his own drop, Crowder – known for his outlandish personality – unleashed three quarters of his team's pent-up frustrations. He spiked the ball in anger, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by the highly criticized crew of officials.

"Before Washington went down, I snatched the ball out of his hands," said Crowder, who apologized for his actions. "I had the ball in my arms."

While slamming down the ball may have been a bad move on Crowder's part, his teammates don't blame him. As they see it, no apologies were necessary -- not considering the rest of the No. 16 Gators also felt robbed by more than five other controversial negated fumbles in the 38-34 loss to No. 9 Florida State.

"I probably would have done the same thing," defensive tackle Marcus Thomas said. "From the first play of the game, we weren't getting the calls. We weren't getting what were pretty clearly fumbles."

As the referees left the field following the game, they were bombarded by bottles and trash collected by Florida fans. However, as of Sunday morning, the pelting was the only punishment they faced.

Tommy Hunt, the director of ACC officials, told The Associated Press he was yet to watch the game tape, so he couldn't comment specifically on the calls.

"When I see the game, if our officials make mistakes, they're held accountable for them," Hunt said. "We've got the best officials in the country, or some of the best, and I stand by that."

But Saturday, while some calls could have been considered questionable by either side, at least three others were clearly incorrect. Frustrations from players boiled over after the game as the teams broke out in a post-game melee at midfield.

Currently, the contract between the Seminoles and the Gators is structured so that the away team provides officials from their own conference. (In this case, ACC officials called Saturday's game.)

So it's no wonder Athletics Director Jeremy Foley will consider a revision in the future. As Foley sat against the goalpost in the north end zone toward the end of Saturday's game, his frustrations were made clear as he hollered in the direction of an official.

However, there isn't much more that anyone can do. Earlier this season, when referees incorrectly negated an interception by cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, Florida coach Ron Zook said he could simply send in the play for review by the conference.

While the official who made the call was suspended, Ratliff's pick remained unrecognized.

"People sit in the stands, they watch the replay four or five times, in slow motion, backward, forward, then they make the call," Hunt told the AP. "We're not in that business. We're in the instantaneous-decision business."

So for the Gators, life must go on. With a Peach Bowl invitation likely on the horizon, Florida will begin post-season preparations later in the week.

Until then, they will bitterly reminisce about the game they feel was taken from them. Then, they'll celebrate a season highlighted by an unlikely midseason turnaround which helped them finish far better than many initially projected.

"We were supposed to be 3-6 [after facing LSU, Arkansas and Georgia]," Crowder said. "[The media] said we'd be 3-6 automatically, so this loss isn't that discouraging. But you get upset because we felt like we deserved to win. We'll just have to see who we're playing in the bowl and try to beat them up."

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