With all the controversy surrounding the BYU vs. Washington game what did sports fans learn from the contest...
The ball left the hand of Jake Locker, and the flag was instantly thrown. Looking back at the replay that much is obvious. After that fact everything else about that call becomes muddled in debate. So let us turn to the facts about that play.
The rule: Rule 9 Section 2 Article 2c:which states that a player can be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for "throwing the ball HIGH into the air." The key word in that rule of course is high. Although the official that made the call is standing by the line that is wasn't a judgement call and it was an automatic penalty, the very mention of the word "high" in the rule means that there is some judgement involved in the calling of the penalty.
Yet, to all the commentators that continue with the line that he just "flipped the ball over his shoulder," maybe you should take a look again at the replay. The ball traveled at least 20-30 feet into the air. You can't make the argument that 20-30 feet isn't "high."
Does that mean it was an automatic call? No. There is always an element of personal judgement by the officials for any call made during a game. There are some penalties that officials normally will not call, although they are also obvious. Sideline infractions are a good example of a rule that officials often look the other way on. Another example is not calling a personal foul call when two players are going at it, after a play, in favor of talking to both team captains to resolve the issue. Is it the "by the book" right thing to do not to throw a flag? No, but it can be far more effective in resolving the issue on the field without influencing the game.
So was it a bad call? By the letter of the law, no; however, in looking at the situation and when the call was made, yes. Does this mean that Washington can blame the loss on this one call? NO! Penalties are part of the game of football. They are part of the ups and down of the game. If you want to win a college football game a team needs to be able to overcome the situation that they are presented with.
Is there a way that Washington/the rest of college football can avoid another call like this? Yes, there is a very simple way to avoid all of this controversy in the future. If Locker doesn't throw the ball into the air, then there wouldn't have been a penalty called. Lost in all the excitement of the call is the simple fact that Locker did throw the ball high into the air. Sure he was excited to score the touchdown, and it may be a stupid rule; yet, it is still a rule. The NCAA sent tapes to every coach in America saying that they were going to be very strict in the enforcement of this rule this season. Locker has been playing football long enough to know that you can't do anything that gives an official the opportunity to call a penalty. Jake Locker needs to take far more of the blame. His actions cost his team a better shot at hitting the PAT, and sending the game into overtime.
The PAT is another simple fact that was also lost in the aftermath of the excessive celebration penalty. If Washington hits a chip shot field goal, nobody cares that Locker was called for an excessive celebration penalty. The game is decided in overtime. Yet, BYU stepped up and made an impressive special teams play and blocked the PAT. The special teams unit for the University of Washington also deserves a piece of the blame for why Washington lost the football game. Even if the PAT was successful there is no way of knowing who would have won the football game. There is NO guarantee that Washington wins the game if they hit the PAT and send it to overtime.
Forgotten in the aftermath of the game is the fact that BYU steeped up and made a play to prevent overtime. A 35 yard field goal should be virtually automatic for a PAC-10 kicker. BYU's special teams stepped up and made the block.
Did BYU take a hit nationally due to the way they won this game? In the short term, yes. National commentators are always looking for ways to discredit non-BCS schools. That is just the nature of college football. The majority of the highlights from the BYU Vs. Washington game are showing only the last drive of the game by Washington, and present the game in the light that it was a miracle that BYU hung on to win. That Washington was the better team on the field, and BYU had no business winning the game. Anyone who watched the entire game would know that wasn't the case. BYU outperformed the Huskies, and it was a few bad breaks that went against the Cougars that allowed the Huskies to keep the game close. The problem is the majority of people voting in the poll don't watch the game, they only watch the highlights. This can account for why BYU fell three spots after winning in the national polls. It also explains why this story has show some much life, and hasn't faded in the news cycle.
In the long run this may work out to be the best thing that could have happened to BYU. Since signing the TV contract with CSTV(now CBSC) BYU and the Mountain West Conference has been trying anything they could to get any recognition from the national media. The national media may not be talking favorably about BYU, but they are talking about BYU. This gives BYU a huge opportunity for the rest of the season. People will now tune in and watch BYU games that hadn't in the past. All BYU needs to do is win, and win big. The UCLA game this weekend is a great opportunity for BYU to show that last week was a fluke and they are a real contender to get a BCS berth.
The aftermath of the BYU Vs. Washington game has been a mess. Now it is up to BYU to prove that the Washington game was just a weird fluke and to do that all they need to do is keep winning.