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Officiating crew suspended for allowing Central Michigan’s game-winning Hail Mary

Oklahoma State linebacker Chad Whitener sits in the end zone while Central Michigan celebrates a last-second touchdown. (Brody Schmidt/Associated Press)

The play on which Central Michigan beat No. 22 Oklahoma State on Saturday, an amazing Hail Mary with a lateral, was arguably the biggest highlight of college football’s first two weeks. Unfortunately, it should never have happened, and the officiating crew for the game is being punished for its gaffe.

The eight-man crew has been suspended for two weeks, the Mid-American Conference announced Sunday. In addition, the Big 12 announced that the two-person video replay crew was also given a two-game ban, and the pair will not be able to work any postseason games.

“After a thorough review and evaluation of the entire Central Michigan at Oklahoma State contest, we have decided to suspend the officiating crew for the next two consecutive weeks,” Bill Carollo, the national coordinator of college football officials, said in statement released by the MAC. In a separate statement, Carollo said, “The crew made a misapplication of the rule and should not have extended the contest with one final play. Despite the error, this will not change the outcome of the contest.”

The Hail Mary play came after the Chippewas were given an untimed down after the game clock had expired on the previous play, one in which the Cowboys had thrown an incomplete pass on fourth down. Oklahoma State was flagged for intentional grounding, but as that penalty comes with a loss of down, the contest should have ended at that point. Instead, this happened:

“The crew missed an opportunity to advise the MAC officiating crew of the misapplication of the penalty giving CMU an untimed down that resulted in its game-winning touchdown,” Walt Anderson, the Big 12 coordinator of officials, said in a statement. “NCAA rules permit instant replay to correct egregious errors and it is unacceptable that it did not occur in this situation.”

The suspensions will come as small consolation for Oklahoma State, which will have to live with the loss, which dropped it to 1-1 and out of the Associated Press top 25. The head coach of the Cowboys, Mike Gundy, released a statement Sunday in which he said he was “disappointed” in himself for calling a play that could have led to the intentional grounding penalty, but also “disappointed that we had 10 rules officials who didn’t properly apply the rule.”