One Wild Saturday

By Mick Holien

A single walk-off win is a rare commodity in sports but back-to-back walk-offs… you have just got to be kidding me.

But that’s what Montana Grizzly fans have been treated to for the last two weeks. While on this morning-after it sure feels good to be in the midst of a five-game winning streak, I have to admit Saturday’s last-second victory over Northern Arizona still has me numb.

Now, I guess with five seconds left on the clock after C.J. Adkins engaged in hand-to-hand combat on a fade route to pull down the chipper in the southwest corner of the end zone, you could say this wasn’t a true walk-off – a baseball term for a game-winning, bottom-of-the-last-inning safety – but it’s close enough for me.

And speaking of a safety (or maybe two)…

After Peter Nguyen caught an NAU kickoff, momentum ran him out of the back of the Grizzly end zone and officials ruled a safety to give the Lumberjacks the temporary 9-7 advantage. Fans, coaches, and players alike were left shaking their heads as they headed to the tailgates and the locker rooms at the half.

Scrambling for an explanation when you are in mid-sentence on the airways is in itself challenging. Frankly, it can easily result in saying something you later regret or wish you would have said differently, and it left both Scott Gurnsey and I dumbfounded.

First of all, why was Nguyen anywhere near the ball to begin with?

In retrospect – Monday morning water-cooler fodder here – what leaves me even more speechless is that I later learned that the seven officials didn’t even confer on a call that had the ability to change the entire fabric of the outcome and the coming proceedings.

Two points in either direction changes strategy and game decisions. The proper call of that play would have left Montana with a shorter field for the final 1:59 of the game, and looking for a winning field goal rather than being required to drive to the end zone for the win..

And it might also have changed NAU’s strategy when the Lumberjacks twice attempted two-point conversions.

Somebody has to step up in that situation and question the referee’s authority. Quite frankly, that bothers me more than the call itself. Surely there was a question in somebody’s mind. I have no doubt the call came up in the official’s locker room at halftime.

While I surely don’t profess to be as knowledgeable of the rules as I probably should be, and in the many years and games you hardly ever hear me question an official’s decision, I’d also really like to take a better look at game film on the “illegal kicking” call at the north end zone.

I am confident that it was an NAU attempt to circumvent a Grizzly TD, which it did, and it also should have been ruled a safety. While we’re talking about it, Jordie Johnson’s ill-fated attempt to get rid of the ball when pressured in his own end zone was a fumble and an NAU TD, not an incomplete pass.

Suffice it to say it wasn’t the best job by a veteran officiating crew and it is unfortunate that on the day after a key Big Sky Conference battle we’re left talking about officiating rather than a team’s performance.

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