A common saying for any football game is that one play can change the entire complexion of the contest.
West Virginia’s final offensive snap of the Backyard Brawl on Thursday against Pittsburgh fit this mold perfectly. The Mountaineers had a fourth down pass overturned after replay review, which would’ve given the Mountaineers a chance to tie the game from the 1-yard line with less than 30 seconds to go.
Yes, the pass was incomplete despite it being originally ruled a catch on the field. Video replay was very clear in showing this. However, it was that a similar play earlier in the quarter that led West Virginia head coach Neal Brown having a conversation with Big 12 officials following the Mountaineers’ 38-31 loss.
“Our commissioner (Brett Yormark) was at the game. He was helpful,” Brown said during his weekly news conference on Monday. “Greg Burks (Big 12 Coordinator of Officials) does a great job. I don’t have any complaints with him. The game was extremely hard to officiate. (The conversation) wasn’t hostile.”
Brown took issue with two plays during the fourth quarter. One on each team’s respective final offensive drive.
With West Virginia ahead 31-24, Pittsburgh quarterback Kedon Slovis threw a 9-yard pass to tight end Gavin Bartholomew that appeared to have been bobbled and hit the ground, but was ruled a catch, and the call was held up after review.
The Panthers eventually tied the game and then took the lead on a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown by M.J. Devonshire.
On West Virginia’s ensuing drive, the Mountaineers drove to the Pittsburgh 28, but faced a 4th and 16 with 27 seconds left. Quarterback JT Daniels attempted a pass to Reese Smith on a post route in between three Panthers defenders.
Smith hauled in the low ball just short of the goal line, but after originally being called a catch, the pass was ruled incomplete, allowing Pittsburgh to kneel out the clock.
“Two balls went to replay,” Brown said. “They threw to the tight end across the middle, called it a catch on the field and let it stand after review. To me, the ball (on Slovis’ pass) hit the ground. I think you can see it in the shot.
“The ball that Reese caught was ruled a catch on the field as well, goes to replay, and is overturned. You can see it hit the ground, just like you can see the other ball hit the ground. So, my argument is, either both of them are catches, or neither of them are catches.”
Brown said he was frustrated at the end of the game due to not getting a response about the call from the head official, and even used one of his timeouts in an attempt to get an answer.
“I wanted to know what was said on replay, and he was the only one who knows,” Brown said.
Despite exhibiting some raw emotions following his postgame handshake with Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi and during his interview with reporters after leaving the field, Brown said his talk with conference officials was calm, and also complimented the referees.
“The league office does a good job of responding,” Brown said. “In the end, we just agreed to disagree on the whole thing. The game, which overall was very emotional, was officiated pretty well. There were a lot of reviews, they wanted to make sure they got things right.”