The controversial catch that helped Pitt beat Duke
Duke coach David Cutcliffe is “irritated” with ACC officials, particularly the crew that worked Saturday’s 24-17 Pittsburgh win over the Blue Devils.
During that game, calls on two fourth-quarter plays, in particular, caused Cutcliffe to lodge a complaint with the ACC.
Cutcliffe said ACC officials made wrong calls on a Pitt 49-yard pass completion that preceded a touchdown which put the Panthers ahead for good, and on an interception that ended Duke’s final possession.
It’s common practice for schools to submit disputed plays to Dennis Hennigan, the league’s director of football officiating. The school usually receives an explanation – either a rebuttal or an admission of an error – in response.
“All you can do is turn it in, which we do,” Cutcliffe said. “There’s a mechanism for that. I’m not happy overall with a lot of things that have occurred that we’ve had to deal with. But that’s for the conference.”
The ACC declined to comment on Duke’s complaint.
Here’s a look at those two plays:
The Pitt completion
With Duke leading 17-14 early in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben DiNucci fired a 49-yard pass toward wide receiver Jester Weah. Replays show Duke sophomore cornerback Mark Gilbert leaping and catching the pass before hitting the ground in what appeared to be an interception as Weah also reached for the ball.
Weah and Gilbert both fell to the ground grabbing the ball. Bryan Platt, the back judge, ruled the play a simultaneous possession, which by rule makes it a completed pass for the offense. Duke called a timeout, hoping the play would be discussed further. But simultaneous possession calls are not reviewable under replay guidelines.
“I didn’t think it was simultaneous possession,” Cutcliffe said following the game. “I wanted to know who called it simultaneous because that is non-reviewable. It’s reviewable if it is a catch or no catch. So I still don’t have an answer as to who called it simultaneous. Unless I don’t see things right, the jumbotron didn’t look simultaneous to me. It looked as if Mark Gilbert caught the ball and it was wrestled to a tie, if you will. But he caught the ball clearly.”
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi questioned why Cutcliffe disputed the call.
“When it’s simultaneous like that, the offense always gets the ball, period,” Narduzzi said after the game. “It wasn’t even a question. I was wondering what Cutcliffe was talking with over there. He’s an offensive guy, he knows that. But I would argue too, if I was him, to try to swing the tide his way.”
After the call stood, it took Pittsburgh two plays to score a touchdown, giving the Panthers the lead for good.
The Pitt interception
Down 24-17 with 52 seconds left in the game, Duke reached the Pitt 22-yard line.
Duke sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones threw a pass over the middle toward junior tight end Daniel Helm at the 10-yard line. Helm’s route appears to have been slowed by Pittsburgh linebacker Elijah Zeise, who grabbed Helm around the waist. Zeise released Helm by the time the ball arrived, Helm reached out with his left hand and tipped the ball. Pittsburgh cornerback Jerome Whitehead then intercepted it. Helm pleaded for a penalty but one wasn’t called.
When it was suggested Sunday during a teleconference that Zeise could have been called for holding, Cutcliffe said, “It should have been.”
Cutcliffe made a similar claim on his television show that aired on Sunday.
Another disputed call?
Cutcliffe also said the game officials played a role in Duke getting called for a delay of game in the second quarter. Duke faced fourth-and-goal from the 2 and lined up to run a play when Pittsburgh called a timeout.
When the teams lined up again, the play clock expired before Duke ran a play. The Blue Devils were penalized five yards and Cutcliffe opted to kick a field goal, which left the Blue Devils down 7-3. Cutcliffe said Duke wasn’t aware the play clock had started, but replays show the officials blew the whistle to alert teams to resume play and that the play clock was running.