The Hamilton Tiger-Cats may have lost to the Edmonton Eskimos 33-28 on Saturday night but they did not get hosed by the officials in the final minute.
Social media was abuzz after the loss, Ticat fans expressing concern that referee Dave Foxcroft and his crew mismanaged the clock, costing the team valuable seconds, then incorrectly denying Hamilton head coach Kent Austin the opportunity to challenge the final play of the game.
But it would appear that officials got both calls right.
With under 30 seconds remaining in the game, Hamilton receiver Luke Tasker caught a pass from quarterback Zach Collaros and stepped out of bounds. The clock stopped, as it does after all plays in the final three minutes, but then re-started when the ball was spotted and the play was whistled in: usually, the clock remains stopped until the ball is snapped after a player has gone out of bounds.
But officials on the field ruled that Tasker’s forward progress stopped in bounds, then he retreated out of bounds – he was moving back towards the line of scrimmage – in which case the clock starts again after the ball is reset.
On the next play, Collaros completed a ball to running back C.J. Gable, who was tackled with two seconds on the clock. Collaros and Austin both called timeout at the end of the play, using the team’s second and final timeout.
Collaros signalled time out, reffed announced it pic.twitter.com/DY3Hs4pknk
— Section O™ (@Section_O) August 5, 2017
That meant the team did not have the timeout required to challenge the final play of regulation, Collaros’ desperate heave into the end zone intended for receiver Mike Jones. Austin wanted to challenge the play for pass interference but Foxcroft announced, correctly, that the Ticats were out of timeouts and therefore couldn’t challenge. Austin used the team’s first timeout with just over seven minutes to go in the game and, regardless, rules prevent teams from using two timeouts in the final three minutes.
Part of the confusion stemmed from the fact that the stadium scoreboard indicated the Ticats had a timeout left, the CFL on TSN crew announced the Ticats had a timeout remaining and the CFL stats issued after the game did not show the Ticats using a timeout with two seconds to go.
The Ticats did not, however, have to use their final timeout with two seconds to go. Again, the clock stops automatically in the final three minutes and while it would have started before the snap, Hamilton would have been able to run a play with zeros on the clock.
Had Hamilton saved their timeout, they would have been able to challenge the final play. If they had been successful – and there’s certainly no guarantee of that – they would have had a final, untimed play from the one-yard line.
Instead, the game was over and the Ticats were officially 0-6.