Yes, this play was whistled down before the ball or anything else even hit the ground.
Syracuse running back Brisly Estime, as you can see, was nowhere near the ground. No defenders or blockers were on the ground until the ball was already out. No cheerleaders were on the ground. Otto was not on the ground. Several photographers' knees were on the ground. But the ball-carrier was not on the ground, not even close.
GIF via @cjzero.
Officials on the field ruled the runner was down before the ball came out. After review, of course, that ruling was overturned and possession was awarded to Minnesota, but that's still quite the call. Quite the call, to say the least.
Bashing officials isn't the best use of the college football fan's time. It's a hard vocation. Most of us would do a laughable job if called up even for a half-speed scrimmage, let alone a live game. But ... I don't understand how this one could ever happen.
Who are these officials, anyway?
The call in the Texas Bowl just now was maybe the worst I've ever seen. It was by crew headed by ref Matt Moore, he of Vandy-Georgia game.— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) December 27, 2013
Why's that notable? Oh, that game just featured maybe the worst targeting call of the whole season, among other things. It's a hard vocation.