Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said on Sunday that he’s more confused about the controversial call at the end of the Florida State game now than he was on Saturday night.
Kelly’s team lost 31-27 when a game-winning Notre Dame touchdown was called back because of an offensive pass interference penalty with 13 seconds left.
Here’s the play. It was initially believed that C.J. Prosise (#20) was called for the penalty:
The referee essentially ruled that Notre Dame ran an illegal “pick play” — where a player blocks/interferes with another receiver’s defender in order to get him open. The consensus among neutral observers is that the penalty was the correct call.
On Sunday, Kelly gave ESPN a thorough explanation for why he thinks the call was wrong He also revealed that the penalty was called on Will Fuller (#7), not Prosise (#20).
He said that the two Notre Dame receivers who looked like they were blocking were actually just running their normal routes:
“All right, so he was on the point, we were in a bunch situation. First of all, it’s my understanding now that Will Fuller was called for the penalty, not C.J. So C.J.’s job is to get into the end zone and turn around and be a big target. He was immediately grabbed at the line of scrimmage. He’s trying to get depth into the line of scrimmage, into the end zone so Corey [Robinson] can clear a path. And so as that contact was being made, it was seen, I guess — I don’t know who saw it as interference — but you’ve got two guys that are trying to fight for space. We saw it as such.
“He’s supposed to find space, sit down and be a target. Again, it’s a play that’s a pretty common play in NCAA football — where you’re setting a point, guy turns around and the ball is thrown. The ball was thrown quickly, C.J. didn’t even have a chance to turn around — which may have led to some of the objects that people were talking about on TV, that he was blocking — but he was simply trying to get his space in the end zone. And then of course now we’re hearing that it was actually called on Will Fuller. So it’s hard for me to really put it all together.”
Kelly makes a plausible argument that the contact wasn’t premeditated. But in the end it doesn’t matter if the contact was premeditated. Both Fuller and Prosise were facing away from the quarterback and had their hands on their defenders when the ball was thrown, which is a violation, even if it isn’t called all that often.
“But again, the play itself, in terms of what we ask our kids to do, it was pretty clear what happened on the play: Florida State blew the coverage and they got rewarded for it. It’s unfortunate,” he said.
Here’s an alternate angle that more clearly shows Fuller:
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