Sunday, July 13, 2008

Watch the CFL long enough, and you'll see everything

What happened to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday was unspeakably cruel, yet somehow deserved. Isn't that always the way when the hard-done-by Hammer is concerned.

To an average football watcher weaned more on watching the NFL and NCAA than the CFL, it's sheer lunacy that a team can retain possession after the ballcarrier fumbled the ball through the end zone. The referees apparently got the call right, but that doesn't mean the CFL shouldn't examine the rule in the off-season. As a sidenote, as the league to the south knows, it's not bad for business when it seems like one team gets ripped off. This should be a talker over the next few days.

It's not on YouTube yet, so let's set up for anyone who hasn't seen the play. In the final minute of a one-point game, Saskatchewan's Weston Dressler caught a first-down pass and broke into the clear, with nothing but white stripes between him and a go-ahead score. Hamilton's Jykkine Bradley caught up to him and stripped the ball an eye-blink before Dressler could extend it across the goal line. The ball skips through the end zone.

In the States, it's a touchback. On the merit of the play, the Tiger-Cats should have had possession and a chance to run out the clock. Instead, thanks to those oddball Canadian rules, the 'Riders kept the ball, since apparently they had the last touch. On the next play, Wes Cates plunged over from the 1 for the 33-28 victory.

The point is, rules in sports are supposed to reward or punish a team in proportion to the act. Saskatchewan getting the ball back after a fumble -- skill-position players in football know it's a fate worse than death (only slightly embellishing) to fumble near the goal line -- is a head-scratcher. It was the right call. For now.

That being said, it was kind of karmic. Hamilton couldn't contain Saskatchewan's third-string QB, Darian Durant, and a complete lapse by their pass defence allowed Dressler to break free in the first place. Jesse Lumsden ran 19 times for 137 yards, but if he hadn't lost a fumble at Saskatchewan's 20-yard line in the third quarter, or if his offensive line had given him a chance to pick up a second-and-2 with 1:31 left in the game, the game might never have come down to that play.

Meantime, the other No. 1 overall draft choice on the Ticats, slotback Chris Bauman, the former Regina Rams star, had 90 yards receiving on eight catches in his season debut. That rated a post over at The CIS Blog.


Rob Pettapiece said...

This play might not be as controversial as the Tuck Rule (mostly because Riders-Cats isn't quite Raiders-Pats) but it's orders of magnitude more confusing.

I guess the best way to handle this is to use the same outcome as "Hamilton dives on the ball in the end zone" which I guess is Ti-Cat ball on the 35. But how can we give the Cats the benefit of the doubt? Because they caused the fumble? Because nobody from Saskatchewan was close to the ball as it slowly rolled out of play? (Because that's how the Americans do it? Our end zones are twice as big!)

Honestly, this is such a rare freak play that it doesn't make sense to change the rules. The player has to fumble in such a way that the ball is untouched by anyone for at least sixty feet. How often does that happen?

By the way, I was flipping back and forth between Mets-Rockies yesterday and I just saw this now in the boxscore: Andy Fantuz threw an interception? The hell?

Rob Pettapiece said...

"Best way to handle this" of course means "best way to change the rules." The officials called it correctly, and full credit to them. (Although it was originally ruled a touchdown. Is that an argument for or against instant replay?)

The homepage currently has a link to the video highlights of the game. Click on SSK at HAM and fast-forward to 220 (out of 286 seconds) to see the play. I'm still confused. After the game, three of the four TSN talking heads said they "hate the rule" but I don't remember any of them suggesting alternatives.

By the way, adding another layer of absurdity to the game is the fact that Dressler dropped the ball on the very first kickoff. He recovered it right away, though...

sager said...

Well, you could have a fumble roll out into touch along the sideline too. Of course, every football league has a rule that people hate, but which they're loath to change ... NFL people say they hate that pass interference is a spot foul, but college football people hate that it's a 15-yard penalty (i.e., the DB can foul the receiver intentionally and give up 15 yards instead of 40).

I have to confess I've never been clear on where the ball is spotted in Canadian football after a fumble recovery or interception in the end zone when the ball is downed.

Some leagues put the ball on the 20. Bringing it out to the 35 is a little much, since you did let the other team drive deep into your end in the first place.

One CIS rule that has to change -- kicking off from the 45.

(About the Fantuz play... it was one of those swing pass/bubble screen type of plays, but Durant threw the ball backwards. Fantuz juggled the ball and then decided to throw it. Unfortunately for Andy and the 'Riders, he threw it back into the middle of the field.

(The Queen's fan in me is obligated to point out that James MacLean or Brad Smith, among others, were pretty good at the trick-play pass. James had at least one game where he was on both ends of a touchdown pass.)

Rob Pettapiece said...

Well, you could have a fumble roll out into touch along the sideline too.

True, but that usually doesn't happen when the ball carrier is 20 yards away from the sideline, as Dressler was from the back of the end zone. That's what I meant by freak play. ("Sixty feet" sounded longer for rhetorical effect.)

Maybe giving the Riders a single point in this case is the best compromise. Just treat it like a punt that went all the way through. That's got to be better than essentially ignoring the fumble.

Anonymous said...

Actually Rob that is the way it was in the CFL decades ago. You have to be real old to remember it.
If a team fumbled into the opposition end zone and the ball went out of play, or a defender gained possession anD was downed in the endzone, the team that fumbled got a single point and the defending team got possession of the ball.
I am not sure when the rule changed, but it must have been quite a few years ago.


sager said...

That last comment explains so much ... I've been at games where people around me thought there should be a single awarded when there was an interception in the end zone.

During the 2004 Yates Cup the Laurier Golden Hawks made a pick against McMasterin the end zone. The Laurier DB ran it out, but with the benefit of an obvious holding penalty in the end zone after the interception ... the scoreboard operator even put a single point up for McMaster. It wasn't until halftime that the point was taken off the board.

Mike said...

Now, I may be bias - I'm a Ti-Cats fan who was also in the stands on Saturday outraged with the call - but I feel that refs got this one wrong (and yes, I'll explain myself).

They got the call right that he did not cross the line, but in announcing it that's all they said, then they just awarded it to Sask on the 1 yrd line with no further explanation - hence the second challenge. The fact they only gave a partial answer upset me and thousands of others in the stadium, wondering what had just happened. That in itself is an issue, there was more than one facet to that call yet only part was explained, the full call guess the refs just assumed everyone else knows what happened?

But then on top of that from the replays, I just fail to understand how the receiver - who's arm NEVER moved after the ball was knocked out - had touched it again after it was punched loose.

I do disagree with the call but I disagree more with the fact that the refs failed to do the job properly as well, thus confusing just about everyone and making things look even worse than they possibly had to be.

Big V said...

I agree with the one point argument. I was in the stands and explained to the guys sitting behind me that it would be a single for saskatchewan and we were going to overtime... which would have been fitting for this particular game.

As for the last person to touch the ball argument.
If the ball is punched out like it was, its hard to actually say the guy punching it was the last one to touch it. When the ball was being punched out it is possible the ball slid off the holders hands after it was punched...
so the whole whoever had possession rule makes sense here.

Big V said...

ALso noted in the game, Rob Bagg had 2 offensive plays after corey grant was injured on a long pass play.

Also dressler was injured after his long run.

When you look at the roster, it looks like Rob has an excelled opportunity to start in next weeks game.

sager said...

Thanks V.

I have to confess I only saw the game from the Dressler play onward.

I had company and wasn't free till about 6:40.... I flicked on the TV thinking there would be some game on at 7, turned out 'Riders-Ticats was a 4 o'clock game... so it was awfull confusing for me, what was going on.

It was the correct call, but like Mike says, maybe the refs could have explained it better. Like Rob pointed out, it was a bit of a freak play, I can't recall off-hand seeing a fumble bounce through the end zone untouched.

Big V said...

The ball definitely went through the end zone un touched, and a ti-cat player did chase after it (thanks PVR). So the whole "If they hadn't called it a touchdown our player would have recovered it" theory doesn't apply