The NCAA approved rule changes for college football on Monday, one of which would disallow a play that Alabama head coach Nick Saban griped about after Auburn’s thrilling 48-45 win over Saban’s team last fall.
Per new rules, if a half expires, a video review can no longer put time back on the clock to be started on the referee’s whistle unless there are at least three seconds put back on the clock.
Auburn kicker Anders Carlson drilled a 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half during last fall’s Iron Bowl, when the ball was put back down for play with one second left in the half after a video review. Auburn’s special teams unit lined up and snapped the ball on the sound of the ready-for-play whistle, and Carlson hit the kick, cutting Alabama’s lead to 31-27 going into the break.
Carlson said after the game that the situation is something Auburn prepared for, calling it a ‘whistle kick.’
Auburn fans saw the play as another come-about for Saban, who famously pleaded for one second to be added back on the game clock at the end of the 2013 Iron Bowl, before Chris Davis returned the missed field goal back for a touchdown to win the game. In the 2019 edition, the roles were reversed, but the play came at the end of the first half instead of the end of the game, and Carlson made his field goal.
“I don’t know if I should tell you that,” Saban said of after the Iron Bowl when asked about the explanation get from officials about that play. “But the guy beside me said, ‘They won’t be able to get it off anyway.’ They waited and waited and waited and wound the clock and the guy snapped the ball and kicked it and they said it was good.”
Saban said this after complaining in his opening remarks that Auburn’s gadget play at the end of the game, which tricked Alabama into an illegal substitution penalty, was “an unfair play.” Saban’s teams have now lost three of their last four games in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The NCAA’s new rule, approved on Monday by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, reads as follows:
“If the game clock expires at the end of a half and replay determines that there was time remaining and the clock should start on the referee’s signal after review, there must be at least three seconds remaining, when the ball should have been declared dead, to restore time to the clock.
“If less than three seconds remain on the game clock, the half is over.”
It would appear one or two seconds can still be put back on the board if the next play would not start on the referee’s whistle, as would be the case after an incompletion or if a ballcarrier goes out of bounds, like at the end of the 2013 Iron Bowl.
Other new rules changes include a cap that limits video reviews to two minutes, and a tweak to targeting ejections which allow players to stay with the team rather than walk back to the locker room alone.
Carlson went 4-for-4 on field goals in that Iron Bowl, drilling kicks from 43, 52, 43 and 44 yards out.
The second 43-yarder came after an unofficial 54-yarder was taken off the board when Auburn accepted an offside penalty to take a first down.