Penn State Football: A Look Back at Big Ten Refereeing

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The Big Ten has been criticized a bit this year for a lack of strength at the top of the league, especially with a 10-0 Ohio State team sanctioned. There has also been voiced displeasure over the officiating this year, as it’s been more horrendous than usual. I’ve decided to take a look back at Penn State’s Big Ten schedule and see if Nittany Lion fans have reason to gripe about the officiating, especially holding, which has been a hot issue with some since the Ohio State game.


Penn State 35 @ Illinois 7


Penn State: 2 for 17 yards (1 Illegal block)

Illinois: 8 for 69 yards (3 Holding)

Questionable Calls: Nothing of note for the first Big Ten game where PSU jumped out to a lead and Illinois seemed outmatched from the beginning.


Northwestern 28 @ Penn State 39


Northwestern: 3 for 40 yards (1 Holding)

Penn State: 3 for 30 yards

Questionable Calls: On third and 6 with two minutes to go in the half, PSU up 10-7, Stephon Morris was wrongly called for pass interference. This put NU in PSU territory with a fresh set of downs. Six plays later NU scored to go up 14-10 with 30 seconds to go in the half. This was a huge momentum shift as PSU was set to get the ball back with the lead, and instead went in down at half. You could argue McGloin should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for his ‘discount double check’ move after scoring in essence the game-winning touchdown, but I think most people would like to see refs allow kids to exhibit a bit of emotion, as long as it’s not directed at the opponent, in huge moments like that. All in all, both teams played pretty clean ball and officials were not a focal point.


Penn State 38 @ Iowa 14


Penn State: 7 for 72 yards (1 Holding, 1 Illegal block)

Iowa: 3 for 30 yards

Questionable Calls: After a score that put PSU up 24-0 in the second quarter, Bill Belton was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for putting a finger up to his facemask in a “shh” motion. You can argue this is the right call, but we’ve seen players do this, and even more before and not get called. Belton was disciplined by O’Brien and thankfully his mistake did not affect the outcome at all.


Ohio State 35 @ Penn State 23


Ohio State: 7 for 75 yards (1 Illegal block, 2 Holding – all on kick returns)

Penn State: 9 for 85 yards (3 Holding)

Questionable Calls: This game stings for PSU as much as any. While OSU was the better team, it’s hard not to wonder what the outcome is if the game is called more fairly. With the score knotted at 0, PSU stopped OSU on third and 3 back on their own 18, when Amos is called for a horrendous personal foul penalty. This would keep the drive alive, allowing OSU to flip the field with PSU starting at their own 20. Up 7-0 in the second quarter, PSU had forced another three-and-out from OSU’s own 27 yard line. This time PSU was flagged for holding on the punt, which wouldn’t have been a huge issue normally as the officials would simply back up the spot of the fair catch by 10 yards and let PSU begin their offensive possession. However, PSU was called for holding before the punt was kicked – odd – and after looking at the replay even the announcers were stunned. OSU’s long snapper, who had a great game, intentionally dove at the PSU defender’s legs. The defender, reacting like anyone would, extends his arms as a way to keep the OSU player away from his knees. This was viewed by the referee, and seemingly no one else not wearing scarlet and grey, as holding on PSU. OSU would regain possession 10 yards closer and score right before half to tie it up. That was probably the biggest moment in the game because of the way it affected the score and momentum. After a McGloin pick-six and a Ficken field goal, Amos intercepted Miller on third down, giving the momentum back to PSU. During the upcoming drive, on fourth and 9 in OSU territory, PSU tried a fake punt. Butterworth’s pass to Day was broken up as the OSU defender was draped on Day during the duration of the play. There was no penalty for holding or pass interference here – a bad break for PSU during a fake that even PSU fans weren’t expecting. From there, PSU would give up a touchdown, go three-and-out, and give up another touchdown to close out the third quarter, effectively sealing the game for the Buckeyes. Upon review, Braxton’s Heisman-worthy touchdown scamper is nothing more than at least two missed blatant holding calls. It’s not often you see a player, especially one of Mauti’s caliber, get animated at officials – but this game there were plenty of reasons to justify. OSU ran the ball 53 times and wasn’t charged with a single hold or illegal block – pretty amazing stat.

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