If you found yourself dazed and confused at some point during the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ first touchdown scoring drive of Saturday’s game – you were not alone. Fans, referees, coaches and announcers were equally perplexed.
After having to settle for a Brett Maher field goal on the first offensive drive of the game, Nebraska was determined to finish their second one with a touchdown. Going up against a porous Minnesota Gophers defense, it seemed like a realistically attainable goal.
With a little more than four minutes remaining in the first quarter, and still on their second offensive drive of the game, the Huskers found themselves in a precarious position. It was fourth-and-1 and extending their lead to nine points this early would completely deflate the competition. At the same time, the Huskers haven’t exactly proven themselves to be offensives mavens this year. It was a tough choice, however, head coach Bo Pelini didn’t hesitate – he gave his troops the “go for it signal.”
Like clockwork, Martinez called the play and called for the snap. Getting the ball in his hands, the Nebraska quarterback made a quick pitch backward to Aaron Green who ultimately fumbled the ball out of bounds. The Huskers, right away, assumed that they had squandered their excellent field position by not going for the field goal and, Green specifically, could be seen noticeably mad at himself.
But just as Nebraska’s offense was preparing to leave the field and the defense made plans to enter, the officials did something remarkable – they proclaimed that it was first-and-10, Huskers ball.
Apparently, what everyone -- coaches, fans, announcers, etc. -- didn’t take into account, that the referees ultimately did take into account, was that the pitch to Green qualified as a “backward pass.” And, of course, as a backward pass it would get marked at the spot at which the ball went out of bounds, not at the point at which it was fumbled.
"The play had a backward pass that ended up going forward," the referee told a befuddled crowd. "By rule, first down Nebraska at the out of bounds spot."
Tough break for Minnesota, but all wasn’t lost, right? All they needed to do was make a defensive stand and limit their counterparts to a field goal.
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
Two plays after the “backward pass,” Martinez found wide receiver Tyler Legate for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
The score completely took the life out of Minnesota and paved the way for Nebraska to absolutely demolish them in front of their home crowd, which really didn’t look much like a home crowd anyway.
Did the refs make the right decision?
Check the play out below and decide for yourselves.