Troy masters late-game clock

Published 5 December 2017

JONESBORO -- Troy put together a 72-yard, game-winning drive over Arkansas State University with 1:23 left in the game, and the Trojans entered the drive down 25-24 without any timeouts.

They wouldn't need one.

On the first play, senior wide receiver Tevaris McCormick received a jet sweep pitch and rushed out of bounds at the ASU 35. The clock stopped, and McCormick jogged to midfield, flipped the football nonchalantly to an official, squatted and flopped on his back as if hunkering down at a picnic.

The ASU crowd booed, and McCormick motioned to the Troy sideline that he needed an injury check.

ASU senior linebacker Kyle Wilson walked near and threw his arm up in frustration.

The NCAA's Secretary-Rules Editor, Steve Shaw, on Monday offered a comment on the finish of the ASU-Troy game.

"From an officiating perspective, we have to respect the injury,” said Shaw, who is also the Sun Belt's coordinator of officials. “If there is anything considered inappropriate, the official will report it to the league.”

Shaw said no report was made regarding Troy’s final drive.

Troy does not release official injury reports, but Tevaris McCormick returned to play later in the drive, and Tray Eafford departed the stadium with a boot on his left foot.

So began an apparent stalling strategy to give Troy more time to organize its offense in what normally would have been a high-paced, high-pressure situation.

"We all play the same game," Wilson said after ASU's 32-25 loss in a game that was for a share of the Sun Belt Conference title. "We know what the tactic there was. But I mean, nothing we could do about it. Can't question a guy's injury, so ..."

It took 26 seconds for McCormick to be helped up, and a total of 57 seconds elapsed before the play clock began again.

According to the NCAA rulebook, an offense has 40 seconds to snap the football before it is penalized. The time limit is reduced to 25 seconds after an offensive injury. Even as the play clock was set to 25 seconds, there were still 42 seconds in between plays.

Two plays later, Troy senior quarterback Brandon Silvers threw a 12-yard pass for a first down to freshman receiver Tray Eafford, who was prevented from going out of bounds by a tackle from ASU senior corneback Blaise Taylor at the ASU 43.

Eafford reached for his left ankle and squirmed.

The crowd booed again as the play clock stopped again.

There were 59 seconds left in the game.

"It's not illegal, so they didn't break any rules in my eyes," ASU senior defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones said. "They had a gameplan, I guess. So they executed their gameplan."

Controversial uses of the rules aren't new in college football: California drew ire from the NCAA earlier this season, when the Golden Bears used intentional pass interference penalties to drain the clock in its 35-30 victory over North Carolina. The NCAA's Secretary-Rules Editor, Steve Shaw, called Cal's strategy as "unfair acts" in a rules interpretation bulletin and instructed officials to call "intentional fouls as unsportsmanlike conduct fouls and subsequently reset the game clock in these type situations."

Shaw did not return a request for interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

According to the NCAA rulebook, acting out "a possible time-gaining advantage by feigning injuries, attention is directed to the strongly worded statement in The Football Code."

The strongly worded statement: "Feigning an injury for any reason is unethical. An injured player must be given full protection under the rules, but feigning injury is dishonest, unsportsmanlike and contrary to the spirit of the rules. Such tactics cannot be tolerated among sportsmen of integrity."

There are no substantial penalties.

It took just under two minutes before Eafford was removed from play, and the 25-second clock began again.

Silvers completed a pass to junior receiver Deondre Douglas at the ASU 38 with 48 seconds left in the game.

Then, ASU linebacker Caleb Caston went down with an injury, and ASU Coach Blake Anderson tore off his headset.

Silvers threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Douglas four plays and a fourth-down conversion later.

"I don't know," Anderson said when asked whether Troy had feigned injuries to stall. "I mean, if they're hurt, you've got to take care of 'em. If they're not, I don't like the way -- it's not good. But, I don't know. Neal Brown's one of my best friends in the league. I refuse to believe that's something that he's doing on purpose."

Sports on 12/04/2017