TD controversy

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TD controversy - TD controversy becomes part of Rose Bowl lore...
TD controversy becomes part of Rose Bowl lore PASADENA You saw it . . . I saw it . . . millions across the land saw it. So did Ron Simpkins, the Michigan linebacker. His view was close, tight-in and very clear and definite. Says Simpkins: "He hit the goal line without the ball. Definitely. "He tried to go up over our stack and as I came to him, the ball was already gone." So rages one of the hottest controversies in the 65-year history of the Rose Bowl football game. Michigan lost again Monday in the Rose Bowl, bowing to Southern Cal, 17-10, on a phantom touchdown. It was the thin line of difference in a rugged, error-strewn game which saw the Wolverines fall for the third straight year in the Rose Bowl and sixth straight time in postseason play. , The one important man who disagreed with Simpkins and countless others about the critical goal-line play that produced USC's winning score was Gilbert Marchman, the field judge. Marchman is a,Big Ten official. He was watching from the left sideline as Charles White, USC tailback, dived from the three-yard line toward the goal with USC leading 7-3, in the second period. The ball popped from White's arms there's no disputing that. But the question is when did it fall loose: before, or after, White had reached the goal line? TV replays suggest strongly that Ron Simpkins was right, that the ball was gone. But Marchman was just as definite. Through Jack Springer, supervisor of the game's offi cials, Marchman relayed word that White definitely had crossed the goal before losing possession of the ball. 'It definitely wasn't' a TD Jerry Meter, another Michigan linebacker, recovered the ball in the end zone after White lost it. "I saw the ball loose on the one-yard line and it rolled into the end zone and I fell on it," he said. "But actually I couldn't tell whether White had reached the goal line with it. The official made the call right away." Simpkins didn t agree with that. "The official hesitated a bit, and then he signaled for a touchdown. It definitely wasn't." Bo Schembechler, still without a victory in any bowl although he is the winningest coach in the college game, was not about to be dragged into the dispute. Still, his feelings were clear enough. "My buddy Woody (Hayes) always wanted to use Instant television replays on close and important plays,", said Schembechler, "and maybe he's right about that. "I don t want to talk about it because what I have to say will just get me in trouble. Our entire team felt we had him stopped. It s just shame for our kids who hard so hard to have something like this happen to them." The incident was the first major dispute in the Rose Bowl since 1948, and it was remarkably similar. North-western's Art Murakowski fumbled at the goal line in the second period against California, but was awarded a touchdown and it produced a 20-14 victory. Like that one, the phantom score by White this time will live on in Rose Bowl lore, and linger with some bitterness in the minds of Michigan followers who surely must feel they were jobbed here. "Were you shafted, Bo?" someone hollered to the Michigan coach. "Im not going to answer that," Schembechler replied. He was disappointed, deeply so, to have lost again, for now surely his critics will cite his record of never having been able to win the final game of the season. If the Wolverines don't lose to Ohio State, they lose in the bowl. I m getting tired of coming to this kind of meeting," Schembechler said, laughing half-heartedly, "I was in no position to see whether White had scored. All I can say is everyone says it was not a touchdown, and when you get down like that (the TD lifted USC to a 14-3 lead), you then half to play the game differently." White himself had a rather curious response to questions over the controversial play. "I scored and then I just released the ball," he said. Even he had to laugh about that. . Actually, that was one score the officials flat out gave the Trojans. Michigan gave USC two more, or all the rest of its points, and so the Wolverines do not come off as guiltless in defeat. Wolverines hurt themselves Southern Cal sprang to its opening touchdown after grabbing Rick Leach's first pass of the game and running it back to the 16-yard line. Then just- before the half, the irojans snared another Leach pass ana used it rpr a field goal. Rick played very well, said Schembechler. "The thing was our offense just did not play as well as I'd hoped." As a matter of fact, the Wolverines were uncommonly sloppy. They had the ball seven times through the first half, and each time some misplay a dropped pitch or pass, a penalty, a sack on Leach, a penalty once robbed them of momentum. "We've had a long layoff since the last time we played," said Schembechler. "It's not that easy to regain your rhythm." He figured that defensively, his team played well enough to win the game anyway. But on offense, the Wolverines just couldn't put anything together against an equally rough Southern Cal defense. "I was disappointed we didn t block very well, but both offenses were having trouble. It was a very rugged game." He defended his strategy punting away the ball at midfield with 2:50 left in the game. Michigan never regained possession as Southern Cal ran out the remaining time. "We had three time outs left and time enough to do something," Schembechler said, "providing we held USC. But we didn't."

Clipped from
  1. Detroit Free Press,
  2. 02 Jan 1979, Tue,
  3. metro,
  4. Page 39

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  • TD controversy

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