The header for my column this week says it all.
By now, everyone has heard of Troy and how close the 35-point underdogs were to upsetting the team that lost last year’s College Football Playoff. What the nation seems to be forgetting, however, is that Troy absolutely deserved to win in Death Valley.
You wouldn’t know it if you looked up the highlights on ESPN, but Troy recovered two Clemson fumbles. The first was ruled an incomplete pass, and the second unreviewable. Both plays went without a second glance by replay officials.
The first non-call came with just 55 seconds left in the third quarter and the score at 13-10. That’s when Clemson finally found some rhythm against Troy’s defense.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson dropped back to pass and found Trevion Thompson over the middle for an easy first down. After Thompson had already appeared to turn upfield with the ball, Kris Weatherspoon came over from the safety position and laid a huge hit on Thompson, who then dropped the ball.
Despite a lengthy injury timeout for Thompson, the referees never looked twice at the play. If Troy had recovered the ball, it would have been a huge momentum shift, giving it a chance to pull out a win.
But even I couldn’t claim that one play in the third quarter was the difference in the game. Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me a second time, and all of Troy will notice.
The second non-call came a little over a minute later in the fourth quarter, when Troy’s defense again made a play that could have turned the tide in its favor.
With 14:13 left to play in the first half, Clemson drove Troy’s defense all the way back to its own one-yard line. Watson handed the ball off to Tyshon Dye, who was stuffed at the goal line. Dye was clearly still battling for extra yardage when the ball popped out from the pile, and Troy’s Junior Gnonkonde snatched it.
Gnonkonde ran the ball 99 yards back for the score, but the officials ruled that Dye’s forward progress had stopped and that the play had been ruled dead before the fumble.
After watching the play over and over, I couldn’t hear a whistle until Gnonkonde was in full sprint at the 10 yard line heading the other way. In fact, even the ACC Network announcers couldn’t hear anything, but the referees insisted that the sideline official had blown the whistle before the fumble occurred.
Again, the referees had more than enough time to take a look at the play, as an agitated Neal Brown called timeout in an attempt to get a review. There was no review, and Clemson scored on the following play.
Let’s not forget that every play in college football is reviewed, and every play from Saturday’s game was reviewed by the ACC headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Let’s also not forget that Deshaun Watson and the Tigers are the darlings of college football, and in a season that has already had a number of huge upsets, another one for the media’s favorite would be just too catastrophic.
Anyone in need of evidence of this can check the latest rankings, where Clemson sits at no. 5 after two weeks of lackluster football.
So don’t pay any attention to anyone that says that Clemson just had a bad game, because in reality, the only time Clemson really shot itself in the foot was when Ray-Ray McLoud foolishly fumbled on the punt return.
What no one wants to give Troy credit for is that it played a phenomenal game. If Troy can work out some kinks on offense and eliminate some mental errors, there’s no telling where this team will go this season.
No matter what happens this season, the Trojans will have one big advantage for the remainder of the season: they won’t have to deal with any more ACC referees.