The Florida Gators football team in 2003 was a very frustrating team. From starting the year ranked 21st (coaches poll) to dropping out of the rankings after the Ole Miss loss, to climbing all the way back to #10 for the game against Florida State, the year was weird. Most of that due to it being coach Ron Zook's second year in his failed attempt to even get the Gators halfway back to what they were when he took over the program.
Heading into the match-up with the Seminoles, the Gators had won 5 straight (one of them being over #4 Georgia) and were looking to at least make amends statewide for their earlier collapse in Miami (more on that game later on in the series).
Enter ACC football official Jack Childress and his crew of incompetents.I was going to do a breakdown of the game, but after researching and reliving this game, I said to myself "Screw the damn salad, just post the meat."
Opening kickoff. Cromartie was popped, the ball clearly came loose before his knee hit the ground. Should have been UF ball @ the FSU 30. Instead, it's 1 and 10 FSU at their own 32. Drive ends in a punt, should have been at least 3 points for UF.
Same drive. Guss Scott forces the ball out, then Matt Farrior dives in and it pops out in our favor to Guss before the officials blew the play dead. Scott would have had a return for a TD. Instead they say he was down, again, the drive ended in a punt.
The kickoff after the UF FG. Leon Washington has a case of the Butterfingers and can't hold on to the ball, Billy Latsko makes the play of his career and runs the ball into the endzone for an apparent UF TD. Officials call UF offsides on the kick, results in rekick and FSU 1st down. You've all seen the pics, there was no offsides.
Same drive. FSU WR clearly has firm possession of the ball and 2 feet down right before getting completely leveled and losing the ball which UF recovered. However, refs rule it an incompletion. FSU keeps the ball.
Very next play. Booker loses the ball before the officials rule the play dead again, which once again would have resulted in a UF TD, this time Darryl Dixon. However, Booker was ruled down, and FSU scores on the very next play... That was just the 1st half. Here's the 2nd.
The no call on Keiwan's catch in the end zone. After watching it in super slow mo, I waited til he had the ball in his hands, then once he did I looked at his feet, his left foot was clearly in bounds. I remember seeing it live and seeing him throw the ball down in frustration, now I know why. That was an INT taken away. However, it worked out cuz he returned the Rix fumble for a TD. That one actually stood. But would be made up for a few plays later...
Fason was tackled by Dockett. On his way down, Fason ran into to Show's big ole ass and the ball came out of his hands a little, however he clearly regained possession before hitting the ground because he was on the ground for a good half second to a second before you even see the ball squirt out. A missed call by the officials, leads to an FSU TD and a make up for Keiwan's TD.
The goal line stand. Leon Washington clearly fumbles the ball, that's not in question. The officials acknowledged that, however they said the "fumbler re-established possession." I would love to know how. After watching the replay, Washington lands on the ball with his knee while Channing Crowder is simultaneously falling to the ground. While down there, Crowder beats Washington to the ball, and takes it from him, perfectly legal and should have been awarded to Crowder. However, the refs bitch about him not getting the ball and then taking his frustration out on the ball. Result, FSU TD.
From SportsLine.com wire reports:
What: Florida State returner Antonio Cromartie fumbles and Florida recovers at the FSU 30. Officials rule Cromartie was down.
Result: Florida State retains possession and goes on to punt.
About 11 minutes left in first quarter
What: Florida State receiver Chris Davis is tackled at the FSU 46 on a reverse. Ball pops loose and is scooped up by Florida defender, who is running and in the clear. Officials rule Davis was down.
Result: Same drive as opening kickoff. Florida State goes on to punt.
Middle first quarter
What: After a Florida field goal, Cromartie muffs kickoff, which is recovered by Florida at the FSU 11. Officials rule Gators were offsides.
Six plays after the re-kick.
What: Florida defender puts big hit on Davis that jars ball loose at around the Florida 40. Florida defender recovers fumble and is running in open field for return. Officials rule the pass incomplete. Replays of the bang-bang play show Davis in firm control of the ball with two feet down before the hit.
Result: Florida State retains possession; Florida defensive lineman Mo Mitchell penalized 15 yards for a late hit he delivered thinking the ball was live when his teammate scooped it up. Two plays later, FSU scores to go ahead 7-3.
Late third quarter
What: Florida's Ciatrick Fason runs up the middle and fumbles. Ball is recovered by Pat Watkins, who goes 25 yards for a touchdown. Fason signals to indicate he was down before ball came out and replays appear to support his claim.
Result: Touchdown stands; Florida State ties game at 24.
Middle fourth quarter
What: Florida State tailback Leon Washington fumbles at Florida 2-yard line. Florida linebacker Channing Crowder comes out of the pile with the ball, but officials say Washington recovered. Replay shows Washington on the ground, with his back pinning the ball to the turf, but doesn't show the tailback with clear possession.
Result: Crowder penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for spiking the ball in frustration. Florida coach Ron Zook meets him on field, spikes his headset down and chastises him. Seminoles get first-and-goal from the 1. Four plays later, they score for a 31-27 lead.
Now, I'm not going to say that the calls directly contributed to the outcome of the game. Actually, yes I am, because if the calls are made correctly, the game isn't even close. The Gators win in blowout.
Current ACC commissioner (who was the ACC commissioner at the time as well) John Swofford, who has never been the sharpest tool in the shed, had this to say:
"The game had an inordinate number of difficult ball possession calls for the game officials to make....there were a few missed calls that affected both teams."
That has got to be one of the funniest and dumbest quotes I've ever read about anything related to sports. I mean, there are quite a few FSU folks who aren't fans of Swofford either. But both teams? Really, John? You sure about that? It is no wonder that your conference is sinking faster (in terms of dollars) than the public's opinion of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And if you even had to ask, yes, there was a brawl that occurred after the game when some FSU players decided it would be a good idea to stomp on the Gators logo at the 50 yard line. But hey, both teams start fights in this rivalry. I just wish that Tony George had been there. He'd have known what to do.