The CFL has acknowledged its officials blew two separate calls on a key play in Sunday’s game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks.
With just under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter and Ottawa leading by six, Ticat defensive back Brandon Stewart intercepted Redblacks’ quarterback Henry Burris and returned it for a touchdown. But officials called two penalties, an illegal block on Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence and unnecessary roughness on defensive back Craig Butler.
So instead of 13-12 lead, the Ticats were forced to scrimmage at their own 45 yard line. They ultimately lost 12-6.
CFL vice-president of officiating Glen Johnson says he’s reviewed the play and determined that neither flag should have been thrown.
“Both of the penalties on that play were incorrect,” Johnson said. “Both of those calls don’t meet the standard that we define for those types of penalties.”
Butler was penalized for a “tourist hit,” or contact on a player that is not involved in the play. But Johnson said the receiver in question was still chasing Stewart when he was levelled by Butler with a legal block.
“A player that gets hit needs to have stopped playing and put themselves in a position where they shouldn’t expect to be hit,” Johnson said. “In this case, the man continued to play and he was pursuing the ball carrier.”
Lawrence was penalized for blocking an Ottawa player below the waist, something which is illegal after a turnover has occurred.
“The official had a bad angle on the play and assumed something happened based on the way the play finished,” Johnson said. “But it clearly wasn’t contact below the waist.”
The officials who threw the flags, umpire Patrick MacArthur and field judge Bryan Taylor, will see their ratings affected by the missed calls and that could impact playoff assignments, Johnson said.
“We had guys on that crew who ranked at or near the top for their position because we knew it had playoff implications,” Johnson said. “Both guys are disappointed in themselves and they are good, solid officials who had an error in judgment.”
Ticat CEO Scott Mitchell wouldn’t address the specific calls from Sunday’s game but said he remains convinced that expanded replay is something the league should be considering.
“Overall, I think the officiating in this league is very good but we’re always focussed on how we can make the game better,” Mitchell said. “Our position would be to continue use technology and replay to help the officials make accurate calls.”
The CFL expanded replay before this season to include pass interference and Mitchell said that’s a trend that should continue.
“Despite the fact that we’ve added the number of things available for replay review, the length of games has actually gone down this year,” Mitchell said. “There are ways that you can increase the amount of football that’s challengeable and we think it’s better for everyone if we allow the officials to be as accurate as possible.”
Johnson didn’t want to speculate on whether expanded replay would have helped in this particular case but said the play will be a talking point in the off-season.
“The rules committee process has just begun for 2016 and on that docket is how do we expand the use of replay to help in situations like this,” Johnson said. “We’ll use this play and others from throughout the season to see whether replay could have helped.”
There is, however, no recourse for the Ticats, who must now beat the Redblacks by six points or more in next Saturday’s rematch in Ottawa to win first place in the East Division.
Notes: Johnson also clarified that the first quarter hit by Lawrence on Burris that sparked so much controversy was indeed within the rulebook. “That was a legal hit by the standard we have for roughing the passer,” Johnson said. “When the passer is on the run and is not in the passing position he can be tackled low. We treat him just like we would any other ball carrier.”… the CFL has also reviewed the fourth quarter hit by Ottawa linebacker David Hinds on Ticat quarterback Jeff Mathews and determined there will be no supplementary discipline. Hinds was flagged for roughing the passer on the play, which left Mathews with a concussion and will force him to miss Saturday’s re-match in Ottawa… after watching the ball from his first pro touchdown pass sail into the stands on Oct. 9 – courtesy of an over-exuberant Luke Tasker – Ticat quarterback Jeff Mathews got it back on Wednesday. Lifelong Ticat fan Tonya Ness, who caught the ball, returned it to Tasker in exchange for another game ball signed by several players and other Ticat gear. “I knew it was important to him so it was the right thing to do to give it back,” Ness said.