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The Music City Missed Call – Examining the Rule Book for the Final Play

There are several takeaways from Tennessee’s overtime loss to Purdue in the 2021 Music City Bowl. Many are bad takeaways, some are good takeaways, but the one that has left the college football world stunned is the final call during Tennessee’s overtime possession – the Music City Missed Call.

With Tennessee on a 4th and goal attempt from the one-yard line, freshman running back Jaylen Wright bounced a run to the outside but was quickly met by a slew of Purdue defenders. The two sides clashed like gladiators on the doorstep of the endzone. Wright churned his feet and did everything in his power to get his body across the goal line. However, with that not being an option due to Purdue’s swarm tackling, Wright reached the ball across the goal-line and broke the plane.

Although the ball was clearly across the goal-line, especially during the replay, Wright was not given the touchdown on the play. The officials in the game had called forward progress, ruling Wright down short of the endzone.

Purdue eventually went on to take over in the latter half of overtime and was able to score the game-winning field goal shortly after.

The majority of the frustration from Tennessee fans is from the referees directly altering the course of what could have been a potential go-ahead touchdown. The ruling of forward progress did seem like a stretch considering Wright was still stretching out for the goal-line. Most of the time forward progress is called, it’s when a running back or wide receiver gets stood up by a defender or group of defenders, and the whole pile of players slows to a halt with almost everyone standing up. However, Wright’s play involved a player that was actively reaching for the endzone and sprawled out on a defender in arguably the most crucial play of the game to that point.

See Also from RTI: Twitter Reacts To Controversial Forward Progress Call In Overtime

So, what exactly does the rule say? Is the purpose of forward progress to kill off a play where no one is going to the ground after a few seconds? Or does it go far enough to be defined as ruling a player down as he is actively reaching for the endzone?

According to Section 9 Article 2 of the NCAA rulebook, forward progress is defined as “a term indicating the end of advancement by the ball carrier or airborne pass receiver of either team and applies to the position of the ball when it became dead by rule.”

With that determination, it’s hard to separate the difference between a player skipping backward with defenders on him and a play that is reaching for a score. But the key in this instance is judging Wright’s feet.

Yes, there is a split second when Wright does not appear to be moving forward. However, upon closer examination, it seems as though the Tennessee running back was just trying to get his feet under him. From the time that Wright was horizontal to the ground (without his knees touching) to the time he extended the ball across the goal-line, Wright’s feet were digging into the ground to push him forward. There is a clear and obvious attempt by Wright to inch closer to the goal-line when he knew that ultimately he just needed to get the ball across the line as opposed to his whole body. Additionally, this wasn’t a seven-second play either. From the time Wright bounded to the outside to the time the whistle was called, only three seconds had elapsed.

Going off of the rule from the NCAA, even though Wright’s body could not advance any further due to the Purdue defender in his way, he was still trying to get the ball across. And, again, the player himself does not need to get across the line, just the ball.

Wright’s non-touchdown is tricky when it comes to the way the forward progress was ruled. But at the end of the day, it just did not seem like the correct call. It’s hard to make the argument that there are better times to enforce the rules than others. After all, they are the rules. But on a 4th and goal play from the one-yard line in overtime of a bowl game, that call just didn’t make any sense.

Jaylen Wright had one goal when he took the handoff from quarterback Hendon Hooker: reach the endzone. That’s the point where the referees should have let the players play the game and let the players decide the victor. A forward progress call, that was unable to be overturned during the review, on the one-yard line in overtime is a tough pill for the Tennessee fanbase to swallow

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20 Responses

  1. When forward progress is stopped the ref blows the whistle to stop the play and the ref spots the ball. The ref blew the whistle when he determined forward progress was stopped. The balls was across the goal line. Worst refs on the planet. They’re a disgrace and should be fired. Wish I had a job that never held me accountable for my F ups. Way to go NCAA. I’m boycotting the NCAA. Absolutely pathetic

  2. If you want to highlight a missed call on that play, explain the rule that prohibits pulling a runner forward, something that clearly occured on that play.

  3. The Tennessee running back was being pulled by a teammate.

    is five yards in college football and high school football. … The official NCAA rule book in 1950 stated, “The runner shall not grasp, or be pulled by, any teammate, nor shall any teammate push the runner or lift him from the ground while the ball is in play.

  4. I want to know why nobody is talking about the player that grabs his shoulder pads and is trying to pull him over the goal line. That is illegal and is a penalty.

  5. Here’s a thought for TN’s coach.
    Stop going for it on fourth all the time like you did all game. Then you wouldn’t have to blame the refs.

  6. If Tennessee had played better in the regular game, they wouldn’t have gone to overtime, and we wouldn’t be having this useless conversation.

  7. I’ve heard many times how the two most delusional fan bases are Tennessee and Michigan and here is proof, at least for the SEC team.
    I didn’t care who won, but it was an entertaining game.
    The rules of football state you cannot pull a player forward, you can ONLY push them from behind.
    IF the ref hadn’t blown the whistle they would have flagged the TE for pulling the RB as he CLEARLY PULLED THE RB FORWARD!
    Why is you UT fans and your cheerleader Fienbag can’t grasp this?
    Even IF UT scored Purdue would have as well.
    They moved the ball on first down easily to set up the chip shot FG.
    It’s a meaningless game anyway.
    And yes refs are bad everywhere and in every sport.

  8. These are the same refs from the ACC that screwed up the Duke/UNC lateral fiasco and got publicly reprimanded. Apparently, it didn’t do them a bit of good.

  9. I see u conveniently left the part out when the Tennessee teammate began pulling the runner forward, before he reached the ball over the goaline, thus stopping forward progress…its really not that hard to understand

  10. Everyone seems to miss that if there ref had not call the runner stop he would have had to call aiding the runner. Number 88 or 89 was pulling the runner forward and it would have been a 5 year penalty. Call was good

  11. Us Vols 4 life volunteers no were the winner that’s what matters go vols

  12. Try getting over it. The ref made the call and it was the correct call. Just because you view it differently doesn’t mean you are right. Purdue got hosed on the reversal of the catch. If that played hadn’t been reversed there wouldn’t have been an overtime.

  13. Funny how Tennessee fans want to claim victory. If not for the lineman pulling the playing into the end zone, the ball would never cross. Plus that’s a penalty. Interesting how no Tennessee fans or writers ever seem to acknowledge that. Bias article with little facts and merit.

  14. The correct missed call on the play was the offense lineman attempting to pull the running back over the goal line a flag should have been thrown on that move. It wasn’t, the Vols don’t complain about that no call because the play was already dead. Result is no touchdown can be called on this play if either correct call is made.

  15. The fact that another Tenn. player is PULLING the downed player with the ball is a penalty. Therefore, no touchdown even if the runner had not been stopped . Before the play I said, “Take the sure points The field goal and keep Purdue out of the end zone.

  16. Did you not see the penalty not called when the man pulled the ball carrier towards the end zone? It looks like a wash to me.

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