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During Memphis’ 31-29 win over Mississippi State on Saturday, the Tigers got away with a few things that the SEC officiating crew have now acknowledged were mistakes.
To extend Memphis’ lead in the fourth quarter, receiver Calvin Austin III returned a punt 94 yards for a touchdown, but Mississippi State players around the ball thought that the play was going to end and officials were going to blow the play dead.
The official appears to begin to make the motion that the play is over after Austin picks up the ball. Watch the events unfold below, with the officials on the left of the screen:
The returning team gets a free chance to return the ball without penalty once the ball has been touched by the kicking team, making it a free pass of sorts. So after the kicking team touches the ball and before the play is ended by officials, the returning team can try to advance the ball, Yahoo Sports reports.
Notice the number on Austin’s jersey, he wears No. 4 — it can be seen in the video above and he wasn’t the only Memphis player wearing No. 4 on the field for that play. Defensive lineman Maurice White also wears No. 4 and was on the line for the play.
OutKick’s Trey Wallace reported Saturday that Memphis had two players on the field wearing the same jersey number, which is an automatic five-yard penalty — Wallace’s previous coverage on the Mississippi State and Memphis game can be read here.
If you watch the video closely at the start you’ll see White up by the long snapper. That’s illegal — you can’t have two players wearing the same number on the field at the same time, but we all know that, right?
Wallace said on Saturday that Mike Leach must’ve not known what exactly happened, as he did not challenge the play and the referees didn’t review it, calling it a total collapse from the officiating crew.
If the officials caught the double-numbers on the field — or illegal participation — the return would have been nullified and Memphis would have been penalized.
The SEC acknowledged the mistakes Saturday evening and said the “inadvertent signal aspect of the play is reviewable and replay should’ve stopped the game to review for a potential inadvertent signal. The subsequent review would have placed the ball at the spot where the signal was made.”
The statement also acknowledged the two Memphis players wearing No. 4. “‘[This] is a violation and should have resulted in a five-yard penalty on Memphis.”
Memphis went on to beat Mississippi State 31-29, sending the Bulldogs home to Starkville with more questions than answers.
With the win, Memphis improves to 3-0 overall and will next face UTSA in Memphis on Sept. 25. Mississippi State falls to 2-1 on the season with the loss and will next face LSU in Starkville on Sept. 25.
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