Nutt contacts SEC; review expected Tuesday
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt on Monday contacted the Southeastern Conference about a pair of holding calls that nullified a 78-yard touchdown run and another 68-yard gain.
Videotape from Arkansas' 10-3 loss to Auburn wasn't expected at the SEC's Birmingham, Ala., headquarters until Tuesday. Bobby Gaston, the league's coordinator of football officials, said he would review the footage in an effort to determine whether the calls were proper.
Gaston was present at Saturday's game but declined to comment on the calls Monday, having not seen the tape. Instead, Gaston relayed only what the crew reported after the game:
--Umpire Larry Leatherwood reported through referee Steve Landis that George Wilson grabbed Junior Rosegreen's ankle during quarterback Matt Jones' would-be TD run.
"He felt like the guy reached up and grabbed the right ankle of the defender and he goes down," Gaston said.
--On Wilson's hold during a Cedric Cobbs' 68-yard run to the Auburn 19, Landis relayed the crew's opinion that Wilson held Rosegreen early in his block, extended his arms outside of his torso and "the defender failed to have an opportunity to get at the runner."
In Nutt's postgame news conference on Saturday, the coach defended Wilson and "his downfield tackle was legal."
Gaston said Monday if Nutt's words truly described the action, then Leatherwood's call was proper.
"If he used the word 'tackle' -- if he tackled him -- it's holding," Gaston said. "If he grabs him by the ankle, then that's a hold."
Nutt said he contacted Gaston on Monday as part of a regular review that Gaston asked for before the season. He said he knew Gaston's review wouldn't change anything, and wouldn't use the calls as an excuse for losing.
"They're going to miss calls and that was a missed call, but you have to overcome those things by doing what you have to do," Nutt said during a telephone news conference Monday.
The normally powerful Arkansas offense was stifled much of the game.
"Everybody was sick to their stomach," Nutt said. "There were so many opportunities for us. We just didn't get it done."
Gaston said his review of the play would include whether Leatherwood was in the right position when making the call and whether any other official could have seen the block as well.
"We want the umpire to close to where the ball is," Gaston said. "We call quality fouls at the point of attack."
On Jones' run, Wilson's foul occurred at the 35 -- 13 yards upfield from the line of scrimmage. The spot was well within an area that an umpire would be expected to make a call, Gaston said.
Gaston also said that if the foul had happened at the line of scrimmage while Jones was well past, a call likely would not have been made. In Leatherwood's case, the official likely determined that Rosegreen could have still been a factor in the play if he had not been hung up.
Nutt said Sunday he was disappointed with the calls and that he had told players before the season that officials will occasionally made a bad call. "They're human and they're going to make mistakes," Nutt said.
Gaston said Nutt's remarks were not taken as criticism in violation of league policy.
"That's an observation. He has every right to say something like that," Gaston said. "Obviously, he is disappointed. He lost the game."
But sometimes, he said, "What they believe is what they see" rather than the other way around.
Gaston said he has asked coaches to send him plays every week to review -- so he can provide continuing education for officials and praise the calls that are made the way they should be.
LSU's Nick Saban sent 10 plays for review this week, while Florida coach Ron Zook sent two. Lou Holtz of South Carolina has sent in 14, while Mark Richt sent six from Georgia's game at Tennessee -- "and they won big," Gaston said.
Arkansas' have not yet arrived.
Gaston said his reaction to the flag while watching the game Saturday was, "Oh, my God. They must have had holding."
Gaston said he will not say whether the right call or wrong call was made -- only re-emphasize what constitutes a penalty.
"I will not ever discuss judgment," Gaston said.