Miami beats Duke with bizarre last play, fouls missed by instant replay

The ACC suspended the on-field officiating crew from Saturday's game between Miami and Duke after the league later found several errors in the final play that gave Miami the victory. 

Rob Brown/AP
Miami interim head coach Larry Scott speaks with Center Judge Tracy Lynch following a controversial kickoff return, with eight laterals, that ended in a touchdown to end the game and give Miami the win, 30-27, over Duke in an NCAA college football game, in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. A penalty for a block in the back was called during the play, and one player appeared to be down before a lateral, but the play was allowed to stand as a touchdown. On Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, the ACC announced that the officiating and replay crew has been suspended for two games for mistakes made during the play.

The University of Miami beat Duke, 30-27, in college football Saturday, a victory they owe to officiating errors.

With six seconds left in the game, the Hurricanes received a Blue Devils kickoff and zig-zagged across the field, throwing eight lateral passes before defensive back Corn Elder ran the ball 75 yards to score the game-winning touchdown.

After reviewing the play for nine minutes, the officials ruled in favor of Miami.

In a statement Sunday, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), of which both Duke and Miami are members, acknowledged the errors, suspending the on-field officiating crew and replay officials for two games. Upon further review, the ACC agrees that Duke should have won the game because a Miami player failed to release the ball before his knee hit the ground during the final play. If officials had rightfully overturned the ruling on the field, this call would have ended the game and handed Duke a 27-24 victory.

The ACC also says officials also failed to penalize Miami for an illegal block in the back, as well as penalize a Miami player for leaving the bench and entering the field before the end of the play.

“…The last play of the game was not handled appropriately,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in the statement. “Officiating is an extraordinarily difficult job, but our players, coaches, programs and fans deserve the best that can be offered.”

These mistakes not only cost the Blue Devils (6-2, 3-1) the game, but they also lost a tie for the lead in the ACC’s Coastal Division.

The ACC can suspend officials for such obvious errors, but Duke head coach David Cutcliffe says there should be a better way to hold officials accountable.

“Unfortunately there is no mechanism that I know of in place to reverse an outcome of a game. I do believe there should be,” Cutcliffe said Sunday, according to ESPN. Although the ACC says there is no way to retroactively change the game's final score, Cutcliffe argues there is no difference between replay review now and review immediately after the play. 

“The decision that was made in replay was made after all the play was done on the field,” he told USA Today. “So we’re still in the same mode. Nothing has changed other than they realized they got the replay wrong.”

Cucliffe decried what he saw as the misuse of instant replay technology. "I hurt badly for our players," he said.

The National Football League (NFL) first began exploring the possibilities of instant replay in 1976, and in a 30-to-2 owner’s vote in 2007, instant replay became a permanent feature of NFL games. But controversy surrounding the ethics and effectiveness of instant replay has been ongoing.

During a NFL coaches meeting earlier this year, several coaches supported a rule change that would allow “an increase in what can be challenged,” because “they want to examine [penalties] to make sure they are the correct call,” according to Bleacher Report.

But instead of overhauling the replay rights of coaches, the NFL has spent time investing in new instant replay technology. The league’s NFL crew has spent the beginning of the 2015 season testing a new wireless system that features Microsoft Surface tablets. The NFL argues that referees can make instant replay reviews more quickly and accurately by looking at the replay video on the field.

Video replay is also used in various forms in both the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League, as well as Major League Baseball.

But Cutcliffe says faster instant replay decisions are not what the league needs.

“If we’re going to have technology, if we want to get it right, let’s get it right. Otherwise let’s not have replay,” Cutcliffe told USA Today. “I would think this will create that conversation and hopefully this doesn’t happen to another set of young men.” 

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