No. 3 Clemson beat No. 12 Florida State 37-34 on Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium. However there was one particular penalty during the game that FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher was incensed over, both when the penalty was called and after the game was over.
In the fourth quarter, the ‘Noles were leading 28-26 and had the ball. On 1st and 10, FSU fullback Freddie Stevenson was called for an illegal block that negated a huge Dalvin Cook run that ended deep in Clemson territory.
After the game, Fisher called the penalty “cowardly, gutless, and wrong.” On Sunday, the ACC announced a reprimand for Fisher, including a fine of $20,000. Pittsburgh head coach Patt Narduzzi also received a reprimand and $5,000 fine for his criticism of the officials after Pitt’s loss to Virginia Tech. Narduzzi openly complained about VT wide receivers supposedly were pushing off of his defenders. Below is an excerpt from the ACC’s official release.
“Fisher and Narduzzi’s postgame comments regarding officials were in direct violation of the ACC Sportsmanship Policy that states: “Public criticism of officials or public comments evaluating the officiating of particular contests is not in the best interest of intercollegiate athletics. Individuals associated with the athletics program are prohibited, therefore, from commenting while acting in an official capacity on officiating other than directly to the Conference office.”
When FSU was up 28-26 with under 12 minutes left, Cook broke a big run and was downed deep into Clemson territory. It appeared the Seminoles were close to taking total control.
But there was one problem: a flag on the field. FSU fullback Freddie Stevenson was called for an illegal block on the play.
Fisher was completely incensed on the sideline over the call, at one point standing several yards onto the field. Some part of the fallout resulted in a sideline warning and a subsequent penalty for 15 yards to back the ‘Noles up even further into their own territory.
Here, he appeared to tell an official, “You f***ed us.”
What kind of illegal block was this?
A block below the waist is not the same thing as a chop block, which is what some called this play. Chop blocks, which are illegal, occur when an offensive player blocks a defender below the waist as that defender is also engaged up high with another blocker.
This was a block below the waist, though. And blocks below the waist can be legal. The relevant definition of an illegal block below the waist is found in the NCAA rulebook. Basically, below-the-waist blocks are illegal downfield, but only if they come from the back or the side:
All players after the ball has left the tackle box, are allowed to block below the waist only if the force of the initial contact is directed from the front. “From the front” is understood to mean within the clock-face region between “10 o’clock and 2 o’clock” forward of the player being blocked.
Take a look at the play again. It looks borderline, but Stevenson appears to have led from the front with this block initially, striking safety Van Smith in the right thigh, while also getting a little tangled up with him on the way down:
It wasn’t a chop block, and it was close to a totally legal block regardless. Whether Stevenson hit Smith on the side of the thigh is up for debate, though it was probably the incidental trip that made the block look much more physical than it was.
After the game, FIsher was livid. You can see where he’s coming from here.
Jimbo Fisher goes on epic officiating rant
Jimbo Fisher unloaded on the ACC Officials Saturday night after some controversial calls changed the Florida State Seminoles Football v. Clemson Football game. What a rant.Posted by TomahawkNation.com on Saturday, October 29, 2016
"It was ridiculous," Fisher said. "It was not a chop. It was a not chop. I will tell you what: you hold coaches accountable, you hold players accountable; hold the damn officials accountable. It is garbage, and then to call another penalty on the sideline is even more garbage. It's cowardly, gutless, and wrong.”
Fisher was also unhappy about hits on quarterback Deondre Francois, and he lost defensive back Trey Marshall to a targeting call.
"They can take it, fine it, do whatever they want to do with that. That's a fact. Look at the film. It's ridiculous that they do that. That was a huge call in the game. Now, still had chances to win the game after that, [but] that was ridiculous, and the guy wasn't even in position to make the call."
Florida State was forced to punt on the drive, Clemson was able to score a 46-yard field goal on its next drive to go ahead 29-28 with five minutes left. The ‘Noles were able to counter with a touchdown of their own, but Clemson’s offense drove downfield to score with two minutes left to seal a Tigers’ 37-34 victory.
The call for a block below the waist clearly negated a huge Cook run, one that likely would have resulted in an FSU score given how deep they were in Clemson territory.