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Why the officials botched the ending of Miami at Duke

You can't overturn a block-in-the-back penalty on replay

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

So... that happened. After a crazy series of laterals, Miami scored with no time remaining to take a 30-27 lead on Duke. Of course, the play was reviewed. But before the review, the officials announced that Miami had committed a block in the back penalty during the play.

After one review, the referee stated that the play was still being reviewed. After the full review, he announced that there was no knee down by a Miami player, but the block in the back had actually been from the side. Consequently the flag was picked up and Miami won.

The only problem: You can't do that.

rule book

That's Rule 12-3-6 of the official NCAA Football Rulebook for 2015. You'll see that it does allow for correction of "egregious errors" that are normally not reviewable. Mike Pereira says this is the rule that allowed them to overturn the call.

HOWEVER, there is a specific exclusion for reviewing penalties that are not otherwise allowed to be reviewed.

The six penalties that can be reviewed are:

  • Forward pass beyond the neutral zone (12-3-2-c)
  • Forward pass after change of possession (12-3-2-d)
  • Illegal kicking beyond the neutral zone (12-3-4-b)
  • Blocking on an onside kick before the ball goes ten yards (12-3-4-e)
  • Number of players on the field when the ball is live (12-3-5-a)
  • Targeting (12-3-5-f, which isn't listed in 12-3-6 but is specifically reviewable under Rule 12 more generally)

That's it. Block in the back is not a reviewable penalty. Miami may have won the game on Saturday, but the ACC should rule that, in fact, Duke wins on Monday.

Moreover, the call wasn't an egregious error.

AND, the officials missed a Miami player with a knee down with the ball in possession.

Was the ending awesome? Yes. Was it legal? No. And Duke should be awarded the win that the rulebook says they earned.


Apparently the outcome isn't going to change


Pereira himself weighed in after giving it full consideration