The Cowboys recovered, and head coach Mike Gundy sent his offense on the field with close to two minutes remaining for a chance for the red hot Bobby Reid to move the Cowboys down the field for a halftime leading score. Also, remember the Cowboys had won the toss and deferred and would get the ball to start the second half. Momentum could have been riding high on the Cowboys side.
Instead, the officials conferred, Houston coach Art Briles gets involved and the next thing you know the replay official is looking at the play again to rule on an aspect of the game he has no jurisdiction over in any NCAA or conference rules manual. The official record of the game states simply that the play was reviewed and changed – no fumble and UH ball on the OSU 24.
The referee explained to the crowd and later to Mike Gundy that the replay official had ruled Harvey down as a result of his forward progress being halted. The rules clearly state the replay official can rule on forward progress only as it pertains to a first down or touchdown. The whistle was never blown, which has to be a result of forward progress being stopped. It was a bogus call.
"Well they told me they reviewed and forward progress had been stopped," said OSU head coach Mike Gundy. "It was the same situation that I was concerned about prior to the season. I'm not sure all these instant replay situations are cleaned up. My only question to them was why was the whistle not blown then when the guy's on the field?
"There's nothing you can do about it. Some guy in a booth looked at the play and ruled forward progress was stopped. I didn't think it was and I told them that. I'm not going to say I thought forward progress was stopped because if he had spun around and scored a touchdown I think it would have been a touchdown."
Houston finished the drive with three seconds left on a "Hail Mary" flood play to the end zone -- similar to the Texas A&M tipped-ball play and catch in the 2004 Homecoming game that stole the momentum of an unbeaten Cowboys team. Kolb's pass was tipped and caught by Vincent Marshall and the Cougars took a 24-17 lead in at halftime.
Before the start of the second half I asked line judge Wayne Winkler if the replay official could make that call on forward progress, especially when no whistle was every blown on the play until the Cowboys had recovered a fumble. Winkler looked at me for a second and then motioned toward the referee. "He (referee R.G. Detillier) said, 'well, I think he can, but I'm not sure,' " Winkler said acting very uncertain.
"There a very good football team," said Gundy. "Kevin Kolb is everything I was afraid he was. He is a very good player. We never slowed them down and they had people running wide open all over the field. They ran the ball on us and we never slowed that down. We never were able to run the ball. What it came down to is they were a tougher team than we were in the fourth quarter, and I take responsibility for that as a head coach. I'll make sure that I get that corrected."
The Cowboys running game had all of 65 yards through three quarters, although a nice attempted rally in the fourth quarter netted 100 yards on 11 carries. Houston dominated with 12 more minutes of possession time, running 74 plays to the Cowboys' 49 snaps.
OSU, which had hoped to run all night, found the UH linebackers to be very aggressive coming up and plugging run lanes. The Cougars also won the turnover war as the Cowboys coughed the ball up twice in the final quarter, and the OSU special teams gave 50 yards on two punt returns that gave the Cougar offense great field position, as if they needed it.
The Houston crowd stormed the field as the Cougars got a long awaited and desired win over a Big 12 team. They earned it. Sure the replay faux pas cost the Cowboys and really benefited Houston. But it did not come anywhere close to deciding the game. The Cowboys did that with missed blocks, missed running lanes, very poor tackling, and, at times, poor coverage.
This missed opportunity will amount to a quick e-mail and maybe a phone call to the Big 12 supervisor of officials to check into it, and a lot of practice on basics like blocking and tackling during the open week.
"Houston played a better fourth quarter than we did," said wide receiver D'Juan Woods, who caught two touchdown passes. "All we can do is go out there Monday (for practice) and strap it on."
"We're going to go into this off week and practice harder, and hopefully, that will give us an advantage as we go into these conference games," said Adarius Bowman, the Cowboys other standout wide receiver who caught seven of Bobby Reid's 13 completions for 166 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown pass.
"We're a better football team," concluded Gundy. "I'm sure of that. We made a lot of mistakes on defense. Our young players made a lot of mistakes. We missed a lot of tackles and we have to work on all those things."
They certainly do, and it wouldn't hurt if Conference USA worked on its policy and read the rules on when and when not to use instant relay, before they make a mistake with a team that will scream about it and blame it for the outcome in the game.