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Ole Miss loss ends on controversial play

The penultimate play sparked controversy, and its outcome bred uncertainty.

Did Elijah Moore catch John Rhys Plumlee’s pass over the goal line for a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining?

Plumlee rolled to his left and peered at Moore creating separation on a short route. Moore caught the ball with his momentum teetering away from the goal line. He landed at the one yard line. He appeared to catch it close to the goal line. Moore was ruled down at the one yard line by the side judge. Had it been ruled a score on the field, it would’ve automatically gone to review. All scoring plays are reviewed.

Ole Miss was out of timeouts and in a race against time. It had to run another play, but another snap negated the possibility of a review. Plumlee frantically hopped under center, took the snap before the clock expired and lunged forward. Like Moore, he came up short and the game ended in a gut-wrenching defeat for the Rebels. Plumlee stood near the goal line for a brief moment after the game ended, in shock his comeback quest was ruled three feet short. His entry into the game sparked the team and the stadium, but was not enough to change the outcome.

Matt Luke was miffed at the final sequence. Confused by the outcome and why the officials did not stop play to examine whether Moore broke the plane with possession of the football.

“I thought, at the very least, that they were supposed to go review every play,” Luke said.  “At the very least, I thought it should’ve been buzzed and reviewed, but it’s 4th down so you can’t wait. You’ve got to get to the next play call, but I think at the very least it could’ve been buzzed and looked at.”

Luke wasn’t given an explanation for why a review didn’t happen. The frustration in his voice was palpable. He was angry but didn’t want to show it. He knew the consequences of this loss and his team’s deteriorating postseason chances.

“All I was told is that the ball was snapped so they couldn’t look at it,” Luke said. “I thought it would be buzzed, especially something that close down on the one yard line.”

Moore wasn’t interested in weighing in on the controversy. He was trying to digest the team’s inconsistent play and put the loss behind him.

“I did think I was in, but the game is over with now and we have to move on to Alabama,” Moore said. “We have just got to be better, point blank.”
Moore appeared to have possession of the football over the goal line by some angles of the play that surfaced on social media from the television replay. But there a clear angle from the goal line, parallel with the pylon wasn’t shown.


Whether Moore crossed the goal line with possession of the football is still unclear. There’s no way to know whether a review would’ve produced a change in the ruling and a touchdown for the Rebels, but there is evidence to suggest it might have. A review would’ve provided more clarity. A review probably should have happened, but was omitted amidst the chaotic nature of the final minute.

“I don’t know what the protocol is, but you would think with the situation they would take a look at it,” Rich Rodriguez said. “They have the ability to stop it, particularly in a critical situation. I don’t know what the protocol is.”

Rodriguez said he had not yet seen the replay. Interim athletics director Keith Carter issued a statement on the matter.

In the end, Ole Miss lost this football game because of its poor performance offensively in the second half and its woes in the defensive secondary. But the controversial ending potentially robbed the Rebels of a chance at overtime and made the defeat more difficult to digest.

“It was a very tough loss,” Luke said. “It was very disappointing for our kids because they fought their hearts out. We made too many mistakes to win.”

photo credit: Joshua McCoy — Ole Miss Athletics 


Related: Final sequence aside, tough questions and familiar issues loom for Ole Miss

Catch Brian Scott Rippee’s postgame reaction:

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