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Officials ultimately to blame for ASU-Wisconsin debacle

OK, what the hell happened?

It’s Sunday morning, and I still can’t fully grasp what transpired on Frank Kush Field at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe Saturday night. The only thing I know for sure is Arizona State knocked off Wisconsin 32-30 in a game that featured the strangest ending since, well, I don’t know when.

With :18 left on the clock, Wisconsin had the football at the ASU 13-yard line. The Badgers also had burned their allotment of timeouts. Their plan was to have quarterback Joel Stave center the ball in the middle of the field and then spike it on second down to give kicker Kyle French a better lie and plenty of time to attempt the potential game-winning field goal.

That’s when things got weird.

Stave did center the ball by taking a knee at the 15-yard line…or did he? That’s where the confusion starts. Stave placed the ball down on the line after briefly touching his knee down. He then popped to his feet to get ready to spike the ball. That was the last thing anyone wearing a red and white uniform did with any urgency in the game.

The whistle had clearly blown when ASU’s Anthony Jones jumped on the ball, thinking Stave didn’t take a knee. He wasn’t the only one who thought that.

“He’s just going to run to the middle of the field and put the ball down at the 15-yard line,” ESPN play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch said in the moment. “This is interesting, he just put the ball down, he didn’t take a knee. He just put the ball on the ground and he’s saying he gave himself up.”

Stave conversed with referee Jack Folliard, presumably pleading his case, but the clock ran the whole time. Stave didn’t even get under center to snap the football until one second remained.

“The quarterback put the ball on the ground while he was still standing up, he hadn’t been tackled,” ASU coach Todd Graham said following the game. “So that should have been a turnover. That should have ended the game.”

The officials moved with less purpose than Stave did. In fact, with two seconds remaining, the umpire actually holds his hand up as if to say, “hold on” to the Wisconsin line, spurring at least a movement by the Badgers to get ready.

“The official took forever to put the ball down,” Pasch exclaimed on the broadcast.

The scene was chaotic to say the least, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the officiating crew. I fully expect a statement from the office of Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott Monday or Tuesday saying that the crew, headed by Folliard, botched the play. It’s the last thing the conference needs from an officiating standpoint, in light of the scandal at last year’s Pac-12 Basketball Tournament, but that’s what should happen.

So it’s a victory for Arizona State — a win that should propel the Sun Devils into the Top 25 heading into their conference opener at Stanford next Saturday.

For Wisconsin, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. The Badgers feel like they should have left Tempe with a one-point win, or at the very least, the opportunity to attempt the field goal.

Instead, they got jobbed.