In college football, major upsets happen. They aren't incredibly common, by any means, but it's always entertaining to witness a team pull off the near-impossible. Making history is special, no matter what it takes or how it goes down, even if the ending is controversial.
Back in 2016, the Central Michigan Chippewas stunned the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater. It was the type of game and finish that will be impossible to forget for its miracle play, but even more so because it never should have happened.
A Hail Mary and lateral game-winning touchdown is what fans got at the time, but it created a massive headache for everyone involved.
CMU Upsets OK State on Hail Mary Pass
With no time left on the clock, and after being awarded a free play from midfield, all CMU had was one shot at the end zone. In reality, they needed a miracle. That's exactly what the Chippewas got, too.
Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush took the shotgun snap, waited for his receivers to get downfield, and heaved the Hail Mary pass as far as he could. It was short of the end zone, but it fell into the hands of wide receiver Jesse Kroll.
Oklahoma State defenders were right there to tackle him. It looked like head coach Mike Gundy's Cowboys were going to avoid the upset. Then, all of a sudden, Kroll lateraled the ball to teammate Corey Willis, who took off to the other side of the field and found the end zone.
Central Michigan 30, Oklahoma State 24.
What a play. What a finish. What an upset. Everything about the final play was incredible, but the nine-yard touchdown pass (what it counts as in the box score) never should even happened, according to NCAA rules.
CMU's Hail Mary Controversy
Aaaaand the statement from the Big 12 on the end of Central Michigan-Oklahoma State. pic.twitter.com/rTt1j8mMch
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) September 10, 2016
How did Central Michigan get to run a play when the clock had already expired? The answer is simple: The officials screwed up.
On 4th-and-13, OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph threw the ball away to let the clock expire. It seemed like a genius move. However, Rudolph was given an intentional grounding penalty and the officiating crew awarded Central Michigan a free untimed play, which they obviously used to pull of the upset.
The officials from the Mid-American Conference (MAC) — the same league CMU plays in, ironically — admitted their mistake. So did the Big 12 Conference. The Chippewas should have never received a free play after the intentional grounding, but there was no reversing the call.
"NCAA Rules permit instant replay to correct egregious errors, including those involving the game clock (FR 12.3.7). Walt Anderson, Coordinator of Football Officials, acknowledges that the Big 12 replay crew missed an opportunity to stop the game to inform the MAC officiating crew of the misapplication of the intentional grounding penalty as time expired that resulted in the untimed down to Central Michigan's game-winning touchdown in its 30-27 victory over Oklahoma State. Also by Rule 1.1.3.b the result of the game is final and cannot be overturned."
CMU beat Oklahoma State because multiple people didn't know what the rulebook said. However, without the mistake, we wouldn't have one of the greatest college football finishes in recent memory.
This post was originally published on June 1, 2020.
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