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Why UCLA winning on a fake spike is extra embarrassing for Texas A&M

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Spikes stop the clock, but it was already stopped.

On Sunday, UCLA ruined Texas A&M by capping a 34-point comeback with a fake-spike touchdown pass to win in the final minute. The Bruins’ charge back was incredible, the second-biggest in the history of college football.

The wildest thing about the ending might not have been that UCLA won on a fake spike. It might’ve been that the fake spike came while the clock was stopped.

A spike’s meant to stop the clock. But in this case, there was no clock to stop.

Here’s the play before, a first-down reception from Josh Rosen to Soso Jamabo on a fourth-and-6 from the Texas A&M 20. Watch the end closely:

At the end of the run, Jamabo appears to get out of bounds. Fox play-by-play man Gus Johnson said he got out, and the nearby official motioned to stop the clock. The officials do that after every first down, though, which is why it’s not certain Jamabo was ruled out. Still, it seems likely.

This distinction is important.

  • In the last two minutes of a half, if a player goes out of bounds with the ball, the clock stops until the next play.
  • If the player gets a first down but stays in bounds, the clock stops until officials deem the ball ready for play.

If Jamabo was out, the clock wasn’t going to run until UCLA snapped the ball.

Play-by-play logs don’t make it clear whether Jamabo was ruled out of bounds, but it sure looks like he was and should have been. The game clock holds at 0:48, and while UCLA snaps quickly, the clock operator accidentally doesn’t roll it again until well after Rosen receives the ball from the center. That suggests officials had ruled Jamabo out of bounds.

Also, watch the referee at the back of the picture. He never makes a windmill motion with his arm, which is done to resume the game clock. He appears to make a “ready for play” signal, which he’d do if UCLA had been out of bounds on the play before:

Maybe the officiating crew radioed to communicate an out-of-bounds call. At any rate, the entire stadium had to assume Jamabo was called out of bounds, because that was the correct call, and UCLA didn’t rush to the line afterward.

So, yeah: It looks like Texas A&M got beat on a fake spike with the clock stopped.

That’s quite silly, considering spikes are designed to stop the clock.

It’s not clear how many Aggies got fooled. At least a couple of defenders clearly weren’t expecting a pass play, though the cornerback who gave up the touchdown didn’t look duped at all. That corner, freshman Myles Jones, reacted at the snap and ran with receiver Jordan Lasley to the back corner of the end zone. Jones got beaten, but he didn’t get beaten because he thought Rosen was spiking the ball. The throw was perfectly placed.

Rosen’s deception still might’ve played a role. Several Aggies were caught flatfooted, including high safety Larry Pryor, who started on the other side of the formation and barely moved to help a singled-up teammate. There was also basically no pass rush.

Whether Rosen’s fake kept any Aggies from preventing the touchdown pass is something we’ll never know for sure.

But this much is indisputable:

UCLA had 48 seconds left, the clock wasn’t running when the Bruins snapped the ball, and Rosen threw a TD after a fake spike. That’s pretty rough.