It&8217;s Official: Weekend full of close SEC contests

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Though some readers may be tired of my discussing Southeastern Conference football, it is what I know.

It is sort of like the old commercial when the sheriff caught the fox stealing chickens, the fox told the sheriff, &8220;I am a fox. That is what I do for a living!&8221; I remarked on this last week, but it looks more and more like Alabama, though bowl-eligible, will stay home. The SEC has only eight bowl tie-ins, and now has nine teams bowl eligible. Several SEC teams had close calls last weekend. Kentucky, which had become bowl eligible with their sixth win the week before, had a tough time with Louisiana-Monroe, just barely escaping with a 42 – 40 win.

The Ole Miss-LSU game was as exciting as any game I have ever listened to. While this is my opinion only, I do not think that Brent Schaeffer is the answer to the Rebel&8217;s quarterback woes. Though he looks good and puts up good numbers, he just does not seem to have those intangible qualities that translate into winning the big games. He couldn&8217;t cut it at Tennessee and I don&8217;t see much chance of his being the answer at Ole Miss. It appeared for a while that the replay official at the LSU-Ole Miss game might have cost LSU another victory. As happened in the Tigers&8217; loss to Auburn, the replay crew overturned an on-field officiating decision. In both instances, LSU would have gained a crucial first down, but both decisions were overturned on further review. LSU overcame that decision against Ole Miss, so that ruling will be soon forgotten.

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I was asked about a play that happened in the NFL game between the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears last Sunday. The Giants attempted a field goal, but the kick was short. It was fielded (without the ball touching the ground) in the end zone by a Bears defender. After he hesitated a few seconds, everybody else relaxed and he ran, untouched, 108 yards for a game-cilnching touchdown.

I was asked if that play would have been legal in high school or college play. The answer is that college rules would allow it, as a kicked ball (free kick or scrimmage kick) remains live unless it touches the ground beyond the goal line untouched by the receiving team. High School rules declare a kicked ball dead when it penetrates the plane of the goal line. As with all football rules, nothing is ever as simple as it sounds. There are a number of exceptions to the rules in both levels of play, but those are left to the officials to sort out and announce to the fans and press, to say nothing of explaining to the coaches. Unfortunately, very few high schools are able to provide the referee with a microphone, so fans are generally left wondering about the occasional strange call or ruling.

I am glad that Trinity continues to carry the Miss-Lou banner in state playoff play. With Ferriday, ACCS, Cathedral and Huntington all making it into the playoffs, the quality of high school football in the area remains excellent.And, that&8217;s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. He can be reached by e-mail at