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Pat Fitzgerald confused by ref’s action on game-tying field goal

Updated: December 18, 2013 6:58AM

Northwestern has few, if any excuses, for even allowing Michigan the opportunity to tie the game with a field goal. But as it stood, the final play of regulation was met with some postgame controversy.

Michigan had no timeouts remaining when receiver Jeremy Gallon caught a 16-yard pass at the Northwestern 27-yard line with 12 seconds left in the game. The Wolverines rushed their field-goal unit onto the field and kicker Brendan Gibbons booted the game-tying 44-yard field goal.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald was under the impression that he was entitled time to get his field-goal-blocking unit onto the field. Ordinarily he would be right, but this situation is the exception to the rule.

“When a team is coming out and it’s the last play of the game and they substitute with their field-goal team, the defense is not given the opportunity,” referee Bill LeMonnier said. “Usually there’s match-up time on substitutions. When it’s the field-goal attempt like that on the last play of the half, then there’s no match-up given.”

LeMonnier and his crew should be given credit for upholding a rule that might be ambiguous but was properly administered.

Typically on all other plays — offensive and special teams — the team on defense is given some four seconds to make substitutions. This occurs when the referee’s arms are outstretched (signaling that he is recounting the offensive players to ensure 11 are on the field) and the umpire is still on the ball.

Fitzgerald thought that LeMonnier would go through this protocol before Gibbons was given the opportunity to kick.

“I don’t know how you can substitute and do that in 11 seconds but they did,” Fitzgerald said. “So that’s, I guess, that’s the rule. Tough deal for guys in our locker room.”

Seth Gruen

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