During a second-quarter Oklahoma possession in Thursday's Orange Bowl, Baker Mayfield completed a pass to Sterling Shepard for 27 yards on the Clemson sideline. A Tigers assistant performed an impressive jump while the ball was in the air, and four Clemson assistant coaches were in the area to argue the call.
Following the play, Clemson's sideline received a 15-yard sideline interference penalty.
The sideline interference rule could technically make both the jump and the impromptu assistant coach huddle worthy of a flag. However, the 2015 change to the rule requires that a warning and two five-yard penalties be issued before a 15-yard penalty is assessed. There was no warning previously assessed to the Clemson sideline before this call. If what we can see was the basis of the penalty, this is a bad call.
The only exception to the warning protocol comes when an assistant makes contact with an official. While there wasn't any explicit contact with an official in the replay, the windbreaker-clad assistant at the top of the screen who almost walks onto the field did move his arm as if he was nudged by the official running up the sideline. And though having his elbow hit by a referee doesn't turn him into 2013 Bo Pelini, it could be enough to draw the weakest referee contact penalty in recent memory.
Oklahoma later received its own sideline warning, which proved two things: The refereeing crew understands the warning regime, and this crew isn't kidding around about sideline infractions.