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Florida vs. Kentucky: A frame-by-frame analysis of the delay of game that wasn't

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Some calls in football games are just impossible to make with certainty. This was certainly one of them.

The SEC's statement on the lack of a delay of game call from referees in the first overtime of Florida's triple-overtime win over Kentucky on Saturday is the last public word we're going to get on the controversial call, I think.

It wasn't enough to totally satisfy A Sea Of Blue's Glenn Logan:

This is a filibuster, pure and simple. What it says is that the officials were in the right place and performed the right actions. It does not say that the call was correct, because it clearly wasn’t.

...

There's no doubt Florida got a lucky break, but that and "disregarding the idea..." are not mutually exclusive things. The final word on that was given a long time ago, and that was by the official failing to call the play correctly. The officials utilized "proper mechanics" and got the wrong result. Whether or not that means we need to change the mechanics is a question for another day and another time if ever, but the result was clearly wrong, even if it was a very close call — neither of those two facts should be in dispute.

I don't really disagree with Glenn's feelings on the SEC's statement, which seems like "Our refs did what they could, bless their hearts," but there is absolutely doubt that Florida got a lucky break. This was an absurdly difficult call, and even hours of looking at it frame by frame don't tell me whether the play deserved to be flagged.

Look at the above gallery, which has 11 consecutive frames from the moment in question. The clocks are different on the field overlay graphic and ESPN's score bug chyron, so which is right is up for debate, and whether either or both of those two things are out of sync with the play clock in the stadium is up for debate, too. The entire sequence depicted in those frames — each, because this is broadcast video aired at 29.95 frames per second, about 3.3 hundreths of a second after the next — lasts less than half a second.

Here's video of just the above frames, which is so short that YouTube has trouble uploading and hosting it.

Blink? You literally missed it.

This is the NCAA's basic rule for delay of game penalties, from the NCAA's 2013 and 2014 Rules and Interpretations Book (PDF).

Play-Clock Count

ARTICLE 5. The ball shall be put in play within 40 or 25 seconds after it is made ready for play (Rule 3-2-4), unless, during that interval, play is suspended. If play is suspended, the play-clock count will start again.

PENALTY—Dead-ball foul for delay of game. Five yards from the succeeding spot [S21].

Additional clarifying text of Rule 3-2-4:

A foul for illegal delay occurs if the play clock is at :00 before the ball is put in play.

So if the play clock matches ESPN's field overlay, this might be a delay of game penalty — we can't see the ball to know if it is being snapped, much less if it is in play — but if the score bug's play clock is correct, the ball is pretty clearly out of Garcia's hand and in play before it expires, and it's not a penalty.

But if neither of those play clocks is exact, well, who knows?

I'm sorry that there was not more clarity on this call. I wish Florida had gotten the snap off a second earlier, if only because I think that would have saved us a lot of mostly pointless analysis — Kentucky blows its coverage so fully on this play, with Demarcus Robinson just sort of whooshing between two defenders, that Florida definitely deserved the result of a touchdown based on the play as run once the snap happens.

However, with respect to Glenn, there is unquestionably doubt about whether this was the correct or incorrect call. And expecting a human being to notice every single thing that does or does not happen on this snap in half a second of real time is expecting impossible infallibility.

(Meanwhile, expecting a human being to adjudicate this play as dangerous? Just foolish, I guess.)