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A play that changed the complexion of Samford’s 34-27 win at Furman this past Saturday forced a reaction from Southern Conference administrators on Monday.
The play occurred on first-and-10 from the Bulldogs 24-yard line early in the second quarter with Furman leading, 10-0. Samford quarterback Michael Hiers threw a short pass to Chandler Smith, who caught the ball and absorbed a big hit immediately from Furman defensive back Ivan Yates. The ball popped loose, and Yates cradled it before hitting the ground.
Officials ruled on the field that Smith’s forward progress had been stopped and it was still Samford's possession. After a lengthy review by replay officials, it was ruled that Yates intercepted the pass. Samford coach Chris Hatcher discussed the play with the officials before it went back to the booth. Ultimately, the booth said the call on the field stood and Samford retained possession. The entire process took more than 15 minutes.
On Monday, the Southern Conference released the following statement: “After a review of a play in question during the Furman-Samford football game on Oct. 1, the Southern Conference’s coordinator of officials believes there were significant errors in the officials’ approach and final ruling. The conference has enacted disciplinary measures for the officials and will have no further comment on the matter.”
Hatcher was asked about the play during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
“Forward progress was ruled,” Hatcher said. “He was ruled dead by forward progress and the whistle was blown. All the other stuff took place after that. Once forward progress (is ruled) and the ball has been blown dead on the field, you can’t overturn the officials ruling on the field. I think that was where some of the confusion between some of the officials on the field and the replay booth took place. I’m not going to sit here and say it was forward progress or anything like that. I’m just going to say it was called forward progress on the field, and once that call was made, you can’t bring up anything that happened after that.”
Furman head coach Clay Hendrix, obviously, expressed frustration during his press gathering this week.
“Basically, what happened was a really bad decision was made on a call,” Hendrix said. “The play went to review, as I was told, it should have been a review, ball loose, turnover, 15 second review. Next thing I know, there was a conversation going on, there was a statement made that there was a forward progress stoppage, which was impossible on that play. That’s where it all started. Really, really, really bad decision call on the field. (Forward progress) wasn’t addressed in the first five-minute delay. At that point in time, it’s not reviewable with a stoppage of forward progress. That should have never happened. There was never a catch made, there was never possession. You can’t have forward progress without the catch.”
Both coaches said they’d never been through such a long stoppage because of a replay review.
“Real time it was almost 15 minutes, I thought about, what would I do different,” Hendrix said. “I even thought about grabbing (Furman strength and conditioning coach) Andre Bernardi and warming up our guys. We [were] told we were getting the ball, we were told we weren’t. I walked across the field, there was a long conversation going on, after the review. I couldn’t understand why that was happening.”
What isn’t in question is that Samford responded to the situation in a positive manner.
“You can argue how it was officiated on the field, but, with how it was done, the review finally got it right by rule,” Hatcher said. “That was a big turning point in the game. You do get a ruling in your favor, but you got to go make plays after that. We had not done that to that point. We went down and scored and scored 20 unanswered points there, which was really good to see by our team.”
It took five plays for Samford to score after the delay with Hiers hitting Jay Stanton on a 36-yard touchdown pass. Samford eventually built the lead to 10 points and carried a 20-17 lead into halftime.
“Been the same story all season, we kept playing the next play,” Hatcher said. “We found ourselves in a big time hole to start the game. I did not think we came out [with] as much pep as we needed to, especially on a road environment. Furman kind of took it to us early on. We got things going offensively in the second quarter. We were able to get a few quick passes and break some runs to take the lead at half. You go into halftime, you look up and golly, you’re ahead. It was kind of shocking because we played so poorly the first 15 minutes of the ball game.”
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