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Duke 9, Boston College 7: The Key Play - Thadd Smith's Touchdown That Wasn't

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The ACC got this one wrong.

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Partway through the second quarter, the Boston College offense started to gain some traction. They started to move the ball for the first time all game, working their way into plus territory with a long, four-plus minute drive. Down 6-0 after consecutive Duke drives ending in field goals, it was a moment for the Eagles where they conceivably could shift the tide of the game in their favor.

Jeff Smith took the BC offense from their own 35 yard line across midfield with two huge plays. The first, a 25-yard run by Tyler Rouse, crossed the Eagles into plus territory by putting them on the Duke 33 yard line. The second was a quarterback run where Smith went 16 yards from the 43 down to the 27 to recover from a holding call on the ensuing first down.

Rouse gave BC a first down on the Duke 23, but a short gain and big loss gave them a 3rd-and-12 at the Duke 25 yard line. Steve Addazio called for a corner flag route and jump ball throw to receiver Thadd Smith:

From the original camera angle, it was unknown if Smith came down with the ball or not. It took the side judge running up the sideline to call it a touchdown or not, but after some initial elation for the Eagles, it was called incomplete by ACC officials.

They would go to a review:

We can't really see under Smith's arm, but we have to believe that the ball was never dislodged until he rolled over. We can assume this because he has possession when his knee hits the ground at the goal line, and it never squirts out when his elbow hits in the end zone. Both would be considered down by contact plays, so even if they don't take the roll into consideration, it's a catch.

When Smith rolls over and presents that he caught the ball, though, he bobbled it, leading the official to believe he never had possession. Even so, when Smith rolls over, he never drops the ball, he was simply bobbling it. Since his elbow hit the ground first, even with the bobble, the ball never moved away from his body, meaning he had possession through the whole catch.

The ACC reviewed the film, but they flat out got it wrong. Smith didn't have full possession when he rolled over on his back, but that's not what the ref should be basing his opinion on. Smith had the ball when he landed, which is when the play should have been called dead. Even if he bobbled the ball after he rolled over, the play should've been over at that point because both his knee and his elbow contacted the ground. Since he never lost possession in that capacity, it should have been a catch and should have been a touchdown.

At that moment, Boston College would have taken a 7-6 lead, but they instead wound up having to kick a field goal attempt which they promptly muffed thanks to a blown snap. You have to think things would have been substantially different from that point forward, since BC wound up down 9-0 instead of up by one point. In addition, in a game where two points wound up being the difference, the missed call cost BC the game on two fronts, since it directly denied them a touchdown and indirectly set up a missed field goal attempt, both of which would have won the Eagles the game.