Swinney says SEC refs OK'd trick play

pstrelow@thestate.comSeptember 16, 2009 

CLEMSON — Dabo Swinney said Tuesday the SEC officiating crew during Clemson’s victory against USC last season approved beforehand the trick play that led to Jacoby Ford’s 50-yard touchdown catch.

Meanwhile, the SEC’s director of football officials, Rogers Redding, said his crew never raised the question of the play’s legality afterward. Nor was the play critiqued in the postgame officials evaluation, in part because USC did not question its legality.

The play included the same deception as Marquan Jones’ 37-yard catch Thursday night against Georgia Tech — and one of two plays ACC coordinator of football officials Doug Rhoads said Monday should have been flagged and nullified for violating a rule prohibiting substitution tactics that may confuse opponents.

Last year, Clemson led 10-0 early in the second quarter when Ford moved toward the sideline and stopped on the field to tie his shoelaces. He wasn’t spotted by defenders until making the catch and wound up eluding two defenders for the score.

Redding declined to provide the SEC’s interpretation because he doesn’t recall having seen either play, adding that most of the buzz from his officials has centered on Georgia Tech’s fake field goal — also deemed illegal by the ACC.

“The rule book is guilty about being vague and ambiguous in some places, but in these places it is amazingly clear,” Redding said.

Swinney said that during his standard pregame meeting with officials, he went over the logistics of the play and was told it was legal under two conditions: 1) No offensive player was actually substituted, and; 2) All offensive players were inside the painted yardage numbers when the ball was spotted to initiate the 40-second play clock.

“My understanding was that if you have the same personnel on the field ... then as long as you’re in the numbers when the ball’s put in play, then hey, it’s not my job to count to 11 for them,” Swinney said. “That’s their job. That’s the way I understood the rule.”

Swinney questioned the legality of Georgia Tech’s first-quarter touchdown pass off the fake field goal — the Yellow Jackets had substituted a hefty portion of their lineup to get the field-goal unit on, save for receiver Demaryius Thomas, who stayed on the field but hid near the sideline.

“I thought it was illegal at the time, but I couldn’t get anybody to listen to me,” Swinney said.

Hip hop. Senior tight end Michael Palmer is listed as probable with a hip injury.

Palmer hurt the hip during practice two weeks ago and re-injured it making a sideline catch late against Georgia Tech. An X-ray taken earlier this week determined no bone was broken.

Asked if he would play, Palmer grinned and responded, “Ask me tomorrow.”

Snap count. Swinney said a number of second-stringers were held out against Georgia Tech because the staff decided to stick with its best players when the first quarter did not go as planned.

However, offensive coordinator Billy Napier said the staff realized a mistake had been made upon learning Jones logged a mere three snaps.

“When the game was all said and done, we lost track that he hadn’t played enough,” Napier said. “That’s our job to get him out there. He’ll play a lot more than that each game.”

Swinney said the Tigers also intend to weave redshirt freshman Jaron Brown back into the mix.

Reading between the line. Swinney was asked whether he said anything to encourage lineman Thomas Austin, whose controversial holding call negated a long pass to Jacoby Ford that would have put the Tigers in position for the go-ahead score with 3:14 left.

“One of the things I do in Monday team meetings is I go over the penalty tape with them,” Swinney said.

“We went over the penalty tape,” he added, “and I encouraged him. They called a hold. So I’m sure there was a hold in there somewhere. I encouraged him to keep playing like he’s playing.”

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