SAN DIEGO Sandwiched between the postgame interview sessions of Navy and Utah coaches and players after the Utes' 35-32 victory Thursday night, a Poinsettia Bowl official read a statement from the officiating crew about a blown call against Navy in the fourth quarter.
The play came on a Brian Johnson third-down pass to Jereme Brooks, where the Utah wide-out dove for the end zone and tried to push the ball past the sideline pylon at the goal line.
The ball appeared to leave his hand and hit the pylon, with the officials ruling the play wasn't a touchdown and that Utah retained possession for a fourth-down try from inside the 1-yard line.
In their written statement, the crew cited NCAA Football Rule Section F-1, Rule 8, Section 6, Article 1, Item 1, explaining "the ball was fumbled forward, hit the pylon. The pylon is out of bounds, also in the end zone. The mistake was it should have been ruled a touchback."
In other words, the ball changes possession, with Navy taking over at its own 20, rather than Utah having a fourth-down try.
Even though Navy didn't get the ball after the would-be touchback, the Midshipmen still got the ball without a Utah score, since the Navy defense stuffed Darrell Mack's fourth-and-goal try from one foot out.
Trailing 28-25 with 3:40 left in the game at that point, Navy took over a foot outside of their own end zone. Three plays later, the Midshipmen were looking at fourth-and-two at their own 9, needing a first down to sustain the drive.
A quarterback keeper by Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada around the left end was stopped well short of the marker by Ute defensive back Joe Dale, with Utah regaining possession on downs inside the Navy 10 and scoring four plays later.Might Navy have had better success on the drive with a little more working room, starting on the 20 rather than just shy of the end zone? It certainly made a difference in play-calling, as well as a possible impact in time, distance and momentum.