Questionable call in Bama-LSU game is one of many this year in the conference
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Les Miles decided not to test the SEC’s new get-tough policy regarding coaches criticizing officials.
The LSU coach said Monday he spoke with Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive and coordinator of officials Rogers Redding about a near-interception by Patrick Peterson late in the Tigers’ 24-15 loss to Alabama. Officials ruled Peterson caught the ball out of bounds and replay officials did not overturn the call, though video showed the LSU defensive back might have had a foot down in bounds.
LSU asked the league to review the call and Miles said he was satisfied with the response he received.
“I know these officials are trying,” he said during his weekly news conference in Baton Rouge, La. “They are doing everything they can to get it right. The final score is the final score. The officials are working hard to get it right. If I felt differently, I would say so.”
But then he’d have to take out his checkbook. The SEC fined Florida coach Urban Meyer $30,000 last week for saying referees missed a late hit against Georgia on quarterback Tim Tebow, making him the first coach punished under the league’s new policy of skipping public reprimands and going straight to fines or suspension.
The questionable call in the LSU game was the latest in a series of high-profile ones that have left SEC fans, and at times coaches, grumbling.
Peterson stepped in front of Greg McElroy’s pass and might have gotten his left foot down in bounds — maybe both feet — but was ruled out with 5:54 left and LSU trailing 21-15. Replay official Gerald Hodges determined there wasn’t the required “indisputed video evidence” to overturn the call.
“I know I was in,” Peterson said after the game. “The officials said the pass was incomplete because I was out of bounds. There is nothing you can do now.”
SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said the league would not comment on the call.
“The standard procedure for us has been that the school turns in a list of plays and we look at those plays and give them back a review of those plays,” Bloom said. “That’s what we’re doing.”
Miles did not join Meyer, Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino, Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen in publicly criticizing the officials. Petrino, Kiffin and Mullen were all reprimanded within a week and soon after the SEC decided to make the punishment for knocking officials more severe.
Miles said he was convinced Slive and Redding looked at the play “long and hard.” So did he.
“I know the officials could not see the play,” the coach said. “They were in great position. One official could not see the play because he couldn’t see through the back of Patrick Peterson. The only other official who could see the play, was on the other boundary.
“He couldn’t see through one of our players. So, it goes to replay. If it’s not irrefutable, there’s no reversal. The replay man is given instruction to defend and defer to the call on the field.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban lashed out at the critics, not the officials.
“If I was an official and I was making what I made officiating because I love the game and I love doing it, and I was getting criticized by the media — including our announcers on TV — like these guys are getting criticized, I’d step back and say, ‘I think I’ll go to the lake this weekend. You can have this,‘” Saban said. “That’s what I’d do.
He also noted that LSU would still have had to drive nearly 70 yards with both quarterback Jordan Jefferson and tailback Charles Scott out with injuries, against one of the nation’s top defenses.
“If it was an interception, that doesn’t mean they win the game,” Saban said.
“It was hard for me to tell on our film. I don’t watch the TV stuff. I can’t tell you or give you an opinion one way or the other.”
The SEC publicly suspended a crew that called two personal foul penalties in separate games that were not supported by video evidence.
One of the calls came in the Arkansas-Florida game and aided a Gators’ touchdown drive late in their 23-20 victory.
Kiffin complained about the officials after a 12-10 loss at Alabama and Mullen did the same after a replay review went Florida’s way during his team’s 29-19 loss to the Gators.
Alabama and Florida are undefeated and will meet in the SEC championship game. If they stay unbeaten, the game in Atlanta will also be for a spot in the national title game.
Kentucky defensive lineman Corey Peters, who has faced both teams, doesn’t buy into talk that Florida and Alabama are getting a hand from the league.
“I think Florida’s a great football team,” Peters said. “I don’t think they need any help. Officials can’t put the ball in the end zone. They can’t put points on the board.”
Alabama’s McElroy said he also didn’t think the Tide and Gators had gotten preferential treatment.
“There’s been as many calls against us as there has been for us,” McElroy said.
As far as Peterson’s play, he said he hadn’t watched a replay.
“The SEC officials, they’re very professional in their job, they take their job very seriously and 99 percent of the time they’re going to get the call right,” McElroy said.
Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson left the officials alone, but questioned whether coaches should get fined for voicing an opinion.
“(Meyer) said in his opinion he thought it was the wrong call,” Johnson said. “I think everybody can have an opinion.
“I think we ought to have the opportunity to say I disagree with a call and not be fined.
“You can’t say, `Well I think he did it on purpose or I think it’s a conspiracy or whatever.’ But if I think it was a bad call, I ought to be able to say it was a bad call. But I guess I can’t.”
AP Sports Writers Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tenn., and Jeff McMurray in Lexington, Ky., contributed to this report.