Monthly Archives: October 2011

By Rule, it was an Incompletion: ECU win over Navy has no Asterisk

Hell of a try: Matt Aiken stretches for the ball (Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE)

When Navy wide receiver Matt Aiken nearly came down with what might have been a game-winner for the Midshipmen with less than a minute left in Saturday’s game, instant replay was invoked and the result was an incomplete pass, ultimately making Navy the loser in the game. The linked article infers the call was arbitrary and the rule not equally applied in two separate games on Saturday.

At Navy, the officials huddled and noted that he NCAA Rules indicate that it was not a catch.

For this Pirate fan, it certainly looked like a catch and my understanding of the rules had always defaulted to the “ground can’t cause a fumble” thinking. But, the rules are focused on “possession” of the football and securing it through contact with the ground when making a catch while airborne certainly is a decisive factor, at least according to the rule book (specifically, Section 4, Article 1 (a) or page 28 for short). The rule states that a player “gains possession” when he secures the ball firmly by holding or controlling it while contacting the ground inbounds. Unfortunately for Navy, Aiken’s opportunity to establish possession – finish the catch – was when he contacted the ground, whereupon he could not firmly secure the ball. Incomplete pass.

Understandably, some Navy fans feel like they were jobbed a bit and honestly, I thought it was a catch given my lack of understanding the rule. And, of course, others are using it to try and make a case to get the rule changed – which I would probably be in favor of, too. But for now, the right call was made and ECU won the game without footnote.

Great game and big, quality win nonetheless.


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