A Serious Case of ‘Sour Wakes'

Still annoyed by unquestionably questionable calls at critical junctures in the closing moments of last Saturday's game at Wake Forest, The Bootleg is still refusing to let it go. Dave Fowkes reports in with the take on "The Rake at Wake". After this, we agree to move on, but we will be dreading future contemplation of the significance of the game we coulda, shoulda, and quite possibly woulda!

A Serious Case of ‘Sour Wakes'

 

Disappointed Stanford Football fans are still questioning the alleged clip that may well have influenced the outcome of the contest for the Cardinal in their 24-17 loss at Wake Forest last Saturday.

 

You can include Stanford's straight-talking head coach Jim Harbaugh with those who are still wondering what the story was with that call. "As an official, you need to see the entire play," Harbaugh said in his weekly media meeting on Tuesday. "You just can't catch the end of it and ‘think' you saw someone clip. He could not have seen the entire play to call that a clip."

 

For the Cardinal Faithful that have already managed to erase the play from their memory, we will recap. On Stanford's final possession, the offense was driving into Wake Forest territory in a tight 17-17 game. Toby Gerhart broke a play to the outside that went for 39 yards and would have given Stanford a first down inside the Wake Forest 20-yard-line. On the play, the side judge called a clipping penalty on an inarguably innocent right tackle Chris Marinelli.

 

From the television replay, it was nearly impossible to tell whom the call was on, since the referee did not offer a number, and from the replays there were no obvious clips. Even some of the players who were right there when it happened were shocked.

 

"When he said ‘clipping" I still never even registered that it was the block right in front of me that was called," Gerhart said. "Then after the game I was like ‘who did they call it on?' and they said ‘Marinelli' and I was like ‘What? That (the block) was sweet, I was right there'. That was…unfortunate."

 

Harbaugh thought it was more than just unfortunate, it was just bad. "Marinelli contacted the defender from the side, head in front. The defender and Chris were coming together and at the last instant the defender tried to turn away from Chris, and Chris still blocked him from the side with his head in front, legal block."

 

Gerhart, who was running with the ball, had the best view of anybody of the play as he was running right behind Marinelli. "As I was running, Marinelli was out in front leading the way. I saw #40.  I was just waiting for him, talking in my head ‘get him, get him,' then hopped over Marinelli and went down the sideline and got tackled and looked back and saw the flag."

 

The play was called back and Stanford eventually punted, setting up the game-winning drive for an ACC-subsidized Wake Forest. Coach Harbaugh was not all that pleased with the officiating on the final play either as Wake's Rory Skinner used a quarterback sneak to score the game-winner with two seconds remaining. Initial replays made it look like he was stopped short of the goal line, but once lost in the humanity of bodies, Skinner crossed forward into the end zone and the officials gave him the spot.

 

"It looks like he is initially stopped, then they kind of go to the ground," Harbaugh said. "I have been there as a quarterback, as soon as you get on the ground you start crawling forward and reach the ball forward and when they un-pile (they ask) ‘is he over the line?'"

 

Harbaugh also noted that the very same side judge who ruled the final play a touchdown called the controversial clip on Marinelli.

 

The Pac-10 in its contracts requires Pac-10 officiating crews for all Pac-10 home games. For road games, however, the conference allows the home team to provide officials from its own conference (which is not the case for most FBS intersectionals,which require neutral crews). Therefore, contractually, it was not out of line that an all-ACC crew was officiating the game on Saturday - something Coach Harbaugh would like to see changed.

 

"In fairness to the game, when you are playing, two conferences opposing each other, a neutral crew should be working the game," argues Harbaugh. While the Stanford head man has not had any direct discussions at the coaches level, he has been assured by Stanford Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby that this issue is being addressed at the top levels.

 

Despite the officiating issues, the coach stopped short of blaming the loss squarely on the officials. "We knew we had to win ‘decisively' out there. We did not get that done. I put the focus more on us and what we can control…and doing the job. I am not pinning anything on the officials. This is on us to get the job done."

 
Dave Fowkes is a longtime Stanford Cardinal fan. Born at Stanford hospital and raised on the Peninsula, he has been a football season ticket holder since 1981. In that span he has only missed three home games, but of course never a Big Game. Dave currently works in media both on the air and behind the scenes in advertising sales. He has covered sports on and off since 1992. Currently he works as a traffic, news and sports man on several Bay Area radio stations under a few different on-air aliases. Dave blends the passion of being a fan with the perspective of being a reporter in his stories. For more Stanford football coverage by Dave Fowkes, you can read the "Stanford Football Examiner" at www.stanfordfootballreport.com  


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