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Clemson 19, BC 13: The Key Play

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Let’s talk about the offsides non-call

I have to be careful here... The non-offsides call, you saw, right? You can probably talk about it. I can’t, because I’ll get in trouble. The non-offsides call ... it’s third down, and we get sacked. That’s a first down and we’re in field goal range, and it’s 16-13. I appreciate you asking that question, but I’m not going to go down that road. But anybody who wants to know my answer, just turn on the tape and watch that play.

Coach Jeff Hafley

Yeah, Coach, I think we will talk about it.

It’s hard to justify picking a penalty/non-penalty as Key Play, especially one that happened in the third quarter (even though it was the last play of the quarter), but hear me out.

First off, yes the Eagles had at least two rock-solid chances to win the game outright in the fourth quarter after this happened. Clemson did everything in their power to hand BC the game over and over again, and despite how close they came, they Eagles couldn’t quite take what the Tigers were trying to give to them.

But second off, with the game as low-scoring as it was, needing a field goal versus needing a touchdown (especially with the chance of the game being tied, finally) totally would have changed the trajectory of the fourth quarter.

3rd and 3 at the Boston College 32
Dennis Grosel SACKED by Xavier Thomas for a loss of 13 yards to the BC 19

Alright, look — we don’t need to break down every little thing that happens in the offsides call. Nobody’s going to dispute that the guy is very, very offside, right? He literally runs in front of a defensive lineman and is still totally in front of him when the ball is snapped.

There are two important things to point out that happen after that, though:

  • Clemson #23 Andrew Booth Jr., absolutely and to the full extent of his ability, plays hard on the play to the final whistle. Granted, he’s totally swallowed up, but the moment the ball is actually snapped, he turns north-south and runs hard into the line. You have to give him credit for that.
  • Dennis Grosel doesn’t really seem to play to the whistle here. I know this is big “man who has never played organized football ever criticizes experienced athlete getting rushed in the face” energy, but it seems, at least to me, that Grosel sees his big play opportunity is for naught and just allows himself to get swallowed up since he knows (well, thinks) he has the first down anyway.

Now, we can argue until we’re blue in the face over whether Grosel should have put in more of an effort to escape the pocket. But does it matter? He’s probably getting sacked anyway, so a punt is a punt, and, folks, let’s be real here — this is the most obvious penalty call he’s probably ever seen.

This non-call really kneecapped BC’s hopes for a comeback. With the game now in the fourth quarter, the flow of the game is totally flipped if the offsides is called. BC isn’t exactly down the field yet, but they’re only a couple first downs away from threatening to tie the game, and with how much points were at a premium for both teams, having the game potentially tied up would have been huge. For one, even if Clemson does get the late field goal, they would only be up by 3 and there’s far less of a rush to get in the last play of the game that Grosel fumbled. But we don’t even have to go that far — at a minimum Clemson gets pinned deep even if the Eagles don’t manage to get points on the drive, and the field is flipped.

There were plenty of opportunities after this play for the Eagles to come away with the win, so there’s certainly no saying that this took Grosel and the BC offense off the hook for not finding a touchdown when they needed it — but it’s pretty clear that things would have been a bit easier for the Eagles in the fourth quarter if this baffling mistake by the referees isn’t made.