“Phantom Offside” Call Ends UNC’s Upset Bid

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“Phantom Offside” Call Ends UNC’s Upset Bid

Ben Auten, Staff Writer

On Saturday night, Clemson faced off against upset-minded UNC, with the ACC Title and a College Football Playoff bid on the line. Undefeated and #1 ranked Clemson came in needing just one win to secure the top seed in this year’s playoff, while UNC looked to knock off the Tigers from the ranks of the unbeaten. The game was played in Charlotte, just a couple hours from Chapel Hill, but the stadium was filled with orange and purple; it felt like a road game for the Tar Heels.

For the majority of the game, North Carolina played like a nervous team in a hostile environment. An offense that was second in the nation in yards per game and points per game managed 16 points with 2 minutes left in the third quarter. On the other hand, the Tigers offense gained momentum right before the half and had extended their lead to 35-16 with just 20 minutes left to play.

Then, the UNC offense we are accustomed to came to life, and had trimmed the lead to just 8 points with 1 minute remaining, needing a successful onside kick to keep their dreams alive. And it appeared they had done it after a perfectly executed kick from Nick Weiler, who struck the ball into the ground, making it difficult for the Tigers’ hands team to corral it, while the Tar Heels jumped on top of their prized possession.

Then, the referee threw a flag. After a long discussion between the 5 officials, the head referee emerged from the group, and turned his mic on. With all 73,000 fans focused on the referee, plus the millions watching back at home, the referee called offside on the kicking team, meaning UNC had to re-kick. The ESPN crew went to the replays, and it quickly became clear that the referees had missed the call. For all the stubborn Tiger fans, who refuse to believe me, go take a look for yourself:


I understand that you may not believe, and you’re entitled to your own opinion, but if you try to take the bias out of this, you will learn that the referees saved the Clemson Tigers.

Now, don’t get all uptight about it. I understand that I said in a previous article that referees don’t win or lose a game, and I will stand by that even in this situation. There’s no guarantee that UNC would’ve scored, gotten the two-point conversion, and won the game in overtime. Also, the stats heavily favored the Tigers and they deserved the victory. UNC did not play that well on either side of the ball, but you have to give them credit for battling back, and there’s not a doubt that the Tar Heels offense could’ve pulled off the upset, if given the chance. However, they weren’t and the least Clemson fans could do is acknowledge that the referees saved them from a potentially heartbreaking loss.

Some quick side notes to finish off the College Football regular season:

-Clemson QB Deshaun Watson has played some unbelievable football all year. He certainly deserves a trip to New York as a Heisman candidate, but he will fall just short of winning because Alabama RB Derrick Henry should take home the trophy. The Heisman goes to the best College Football player, which is Henry, but if College Football had an MVP, Watson would easily win because there’s no way the Tigers could be anywhere near where they are without him. Also, Watson is just a sophomore, which means he’ll have another year to improve, once he finds something in his game that needs improvement.

-UNC had one of their best seasons ever as a football program, and they deserve a lot of credit. However, imagine if they hadn’t lost their opener to 3-9 South Carolina, what a game the ACC Championship would’ve been then. That Tar Heel loss is probably the upset of the year, considering UNC was unfairly denied their chance to take down #1.