Florida's game-tying touchdown in overtime in its 36-30 win over Kentucky on Saturday night was controversial almost immediately, because it almost didn't happen: The Gators appeared to snap the ball with zeroes on the play clock, which could have produced a delay of game penalty forcing them to replay that fourth down.
But referees didn't throw a flag, and Jeff Driskel found Demarcus Robinson in the corner of the end zone, and the Gators went to double overtime because of it.
This, understandably, left Kentucky more than a little miffed, so the Wildcats apparently appealed to the SEC for clarity on the ruling. And the conference came down on the Gators' side, more or less:
At the request of the University of Kentucky, consistent with SEC protocol, the conference office reviewed the fourth down play in the first overtime of the Kentucky-Florida game and has determined the officials applied the proper mechanics and guidelines that are in place to determine when a flag should be thrown for delay of game. The back judge is responsible for delay of game calls. The procedure for the back judge is for his eyes to stay on the clock when it nears zero. When the clock hits zero, he immediately looks from the clock to the ball. If the ball is moving, there is no delay of game. If the ball is stationary, a delay of game penalty is called.
While this ruling certainly won't placate fans who are sure that Florida got a lucky break — and disregard the idea that Florida would've been able to run another play anyway — it really ought to be the final word on the play.
And it definitely points to the idea that human error is just unavoidable on this specific play in more games than Saturday's. Asking a ref to look from the clock to the ball necessarily forces that ref to change targets, and there's going to be some delay between clock hitting zero and ref determining that a ball hasn't moved — that's just physics.
To remove the human element from this process entirely, I'd imagine we'd need a football with sensors, or some system of lasers, or a rigorous replay system, and all of those things would seem to be unfeasible to the point of ridiculousness.
Florida got lucky here, but lucky based on something within the margin of human error. There was no travesty of justice ... on this play, anyway.