Texas Longhorns: Now About That Officiating


The Texas Longhorns fell victim to stalled drives, dropped passes and, um officiating?

Poor officiating is an easy fallback excuse for any frustrated sports fans who can’t fathom how his team lost a close game (yes, we are looking at you, Texas Longhorns fans).  To be sure, there are poorly officiated games and there are bad individual officials.  Every team at some point or another gets hosed.  It’s an unfortunate reality of the game.  In most cases, there is probably no other explanation than simple human error.  Conspiracy theorists need not apply.

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However, there are rare games where the officiating is so bad that no excuse can be made.  A single questionable call could turn a close game, but an entire officiating crew screwing the pooch for three hours is extremely unusual.  However, it happens.

It happened to the Texas Longhorns on Saturday afternoon and, despite a terribly flawed performance, the officials  were central to the outcome of the game.  That shouldn’t happen, but it does.

Big 12 officiating has a pretty spotty record as it is.  It’s not football season until Big 12 coaches start griping about the poor job the refs do.  Texas has benefited from that poor officiating a time or two (see: Iowa State, 2013).  However what transpired Saturday is simply inexcusable.  If Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has any stones at all, he will publicly sanction that entire crew for their poor performance in the Texas-Oklahoma State game and suspend them.  I won’t be holding my breath.

However, there were a couple of those disputed calls that others have been upset about that I don’t agree with.  First, the “phantom” holding call on Patrick Vahe on a D’onta Foreman run near he Cowboy end zone in the second quarter.  Vahe’s block was clean, yes, but if you watch the replay, it does appear that wide receiver John Burt had a handful of jersey on his seal block.  Right call, wrong guy. Ultimately it didn’t matter, because Texas scored a touchdown on the drive, so the call wasn’t that big of a deal.

Texas Longhorns
Texas Longhorns /

Texas Longhorns

The second was the roughing the passer call on Paul Boyette that wiped out a Kris Boyd interception. Player safety, especially quarterback safety, is a huge issue in the sport right now and many officials take that very seriously.  Yes it was ticky tack, but I’ve seen similar calls made in other games. If you make contact with a quarterback after he throws the ball, you are probably going to get flagged.  Fair or not.

That real travesty on that play was the fact that Texas defensive end Shiro Davis was being blatantly held in the save vicinity and no one saw it.  THAT was a bad missed call.  The play should have been offsetting penalties and a replay of down at the absolute worst.

Holding is probably the single most infuriating call for fans because it is so subjective and so subjectively called.  It’s tough for fans to stomach when they see their team repeatedly flagged for the violation and then the other team gets away with a obvious hold later on.  Holding happens on every play in every game at every level and is usually only called when it is obvious.  On Saturday, OSU got away with an obvious one and Texas was flagged for ones no one could find.  Not a good thing.

Beyond that, there is no excuse.  J.W. Walsh was credited with a fumble recovery when a Longhorn had the ball when the pile formed and a Longhorn had it at the end and there was never any evidence to support the officials determination that Walsh possessed the ball.  I know that the replay official is only supposed to overturn when a call has clearly been blown, but what if the officials make a call that replay can’t find any evidence to support?

The pass interference call on OSU’s game tying drive was probably legit.  (Though PI is another one of those calls that seems to be flagged selectively).  The Poona Ford defensive holding call was a joke and without it, the Strong unsportsmanlike call never happens.

That whole scenario reminded me of the 1995 NFC Championship game when then-Cowboys coach Barry Switzer was flagged after Deion Sanders went for a piggy back ride on Michael Irvin and the officials couldn’t locate their yellow hankies.  It was a loss of composure to be sure, but an understandable one.

However, teams get a reputation that will proceed them.  Texas has shown a decided lack of discipline and repeated poor play from the offensive line.  So the officials start looking more closely.  Officials can also be influenced by coaches and I’m sure Mike Gundy, knowing Joe Wickline very well, told the officials to be looking for holding prior to the game.  Once they start looking, they are going to find it.

It is a travesty that a hard fought and closely contested game should swing on just one call, let alone a number of them.  For that, there is no excuse and the Big 12 has to do something.  No one with any objectivity can write this off as sour grapes.

Regardless, Texas isn’t getting that game back, so dwelling on it won’t help.  Just hope that Texas doesn’t draw that crew again any time soon.

Next: Holton Hill and Kris Boyd Come of Age