North Carolina had cut Clemson’s lead to 45-37 with 1 minute, 13 seconds left in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game and things were looking hopeful for the Tar Heels, with their three timeouts. All UNC needed was a properly executed onside kick, with the College Football Playoff and North Carolina’s chances of moving up, at stake.
Clemson couldn’t handle the kick and the Tar Heels’ Hunter Crafford fell on the ball. Although there’s no way to know whether UNC would have scored and gotten a two-point conversion, the team’s hopes died quickly because of a flag. That’s right. The refs thought someone was offside.
“I had a chance to look at it and they missed it. They were wrong,” Coach Larry Fedora said afterward. “That’s all I’m going to say about it. They were wrong.”
Bubba Cunningham, UNC’s athletic director, echoed him. “You had the chance to get the last possession and deservedly we should have gotten one.”
Because it’s a judgment call by refs, it’s not subject to review, although Cunningham said he asked a sideline official for a clarification.
“I didn’t know if it was reviewable or not, I asked and he said it was,” Cunningham said. “The guy on the sideline told me it was reviewable, the guy standing there with an ear piece said it was reviewable.”
It wasn’t and the result, while less egregious than the Miami-Duke lateral-palooza mess, had a lot more riding on it.