Parents frustrated by their children ignoring advice and directions can relate to college football coaches. Yes, they really do instruct their players to control the football before crossing the goal line.
“We’ve addressed it, we’ve practiced it,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I don’t know what else I can do as a coach. If it happens, it’s not for lack of working on it.”
“I don’t understand why guys want to drop the ball,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre. “Especially on a breakaway touchdown, we want them to run through the goal line like it’s a 100-yard dash … and then hand the ball to the official.”
“We’ve talked about this, I bet every year I’ve been a coach … because it always happens, for whatever reason this year, there’s some really stupid things,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said Tuesday. “When you watch it, you’re like ‘why would you do that?’… That’s not going to happen with us … you won’t score again.”
“If one of our players does that, he needs to just keep running up the tunnel to the locker room,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
“We cut the clip out, we show it to our team,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said on the “Rich Eisen Show” Monday. “There’s no better waypoint than a burning ship in the harbor. So it’s a good waypoint to avoid and make our team aware of that.
“Don’t be that guy.”
Over the last two weeks, “that guy” has been “those guys.” Two weeks ago against Troy, Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud’s 75-yard punt return touchdown was disallowed when he casually discarded the ball before the goal line.
VIDEO: Cal's Vic Enwere Drops Ball Before Crossing Goal Line https://t.co/ncfDRlCOiS
— The Big Lead (@thebiglead) September 18, 2016
Last Saturday, Cal’s Vic Enwere broke loose on what seemed like a 55-yard scoring run that was negated by his self-induced fumble at the 1-yard line. And Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon got away with a similar transgression; the officials failed to notice he dropped the ball before the end zone on a 97-yard kickoff return against Ohio State.
Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com has started a tongue-in-cheek Twitter campaign to stop the madness — #HandItToTheRef.
(We pause here to bestow a special honor to South Carolina State’s Ahmaad Harris. He fully embraced the “hand-it-to-the-ref” campaign in Saturday’s game against Clemson (of all teams). Harris flipped the ball to the official but unfortunately Harris had just fielded a kickoff and he didn’t kneel for a touchback. The official politely refused the live ball offering and Clemson recovered for perhaps the easiest TD in college football history.)
Enwere’s touchdown should have padded the Bears’ 50-43 lead over Texas. Fortunately for Cal, it retained possession at the UT 1-yard line and kneeled twice to run out the clock. Coach Sonny Dykes took immediate action.
“Every time we score a touchdown from now on, we will hand the ball directly to an official,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “It’s really a strange phenomenon. I don’t understand it. But I can assure you it won’t ever happen to us again. We’ll get it fixed.”
“You go from celebrating to all of the sudden the game is in question. What if Texas picks the ball up and runs it back 100 yards for a touchdown?”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingam knows that feeling. In 2014 against Oregon, the Utes’ Kaelin Clay dropped the ball before the goal line on what was an apparent 78-yard punt return for a touchdown. Instead, it was a 14-point swing in the game as the Ducks alertly recovered the loose ball and returned it 100 yards for a TD that did count.
“These young men are part kid – they’re only 18 to 22 years old and it’s hard to find old heads on young shoulders, Whittingham said. “Nobody felt worse that Kaelin, he understood he made a mistake. It’s a teachable moment.
“You wonder how it can ever happen because it’s so basic and fundamental. We instituted a team rule, hand the ball to the ref. It’s constant instruction and reminding.”
Sunday night in Morgantown at the Mountaineers’ practice, all of Holgorsen’s skill players sprinted the length of the field, carrying the ball with two hands and handed the ball to a team manager, dressed as a referee, standing in the end zone.
Despite the emphasis on finishing the play and handing the ball to the official, coaches are just as dazed and confused as fans and the media.
“Every play should be handed to the ball being handed to the official,” East Carolina first-year coach Scottie Montgomery said. “You have to discipline yourself. Coaches can harp on it but it comes down to the individual.
“You can’t do that once but you certainly don’t want to do it twice.”
Oklahoma’s Mixon avoided the infamy thanks to some inattentive officiating. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said his players would see video clips of Mixon’s and other players’ nonchalance.
“It’ll be positive,” Stoops said. “We’ve got the clips of the other guys that have done it as well. That’s something that will be watched and talked through.”
Asked if Mixon’s gaffe will be addressed with the entire team, something along the lines of handing the ball to the official after a touchdown, Stoops was succinct.
That’s a simple answer to an epidemic that needs a cure, STAT.