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Head official suspended, others downgraded after Pac-12 acknowledges critical error in Washington State-Cal game

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 10, 2019

California's Christopher Brown Jr., left, rushes against Washington State's Justus Rogers (37) in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (Ben Margot / AP)
California's Christopher Brown Jr., left, rushes against Washington State's Justus Rogers (37) in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Berkeley, Calif. (Ben Margot / AP)

One official has been suspended and others have been downgraded for making what the Pac-12 determined a “breakdown in officiating mechanics and communication” during the third quarter of Washington State’s 33-20 loss at California on Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.

In a press release, the conference acknowledged a “mechanics error” that was made after Travell Harris returned Cal’s kickoff to the 50-yard line in the third quarter. After the play, officials flagged Washington State for a hands to the face penalty, moving the Cougars half the distance to the goal line and placing the ball at 8-yard line.

Referees penalized WSU’s Armauni Archie, a true freshman cornerback wearing No. 15, but made a mistake in application of the penalty, according to the press release, and intended to flag Cal’s Ben Moos, who also wears No. 15. Moos is the youngest son of former WSU athletic director Bill Moos.

The head official informed Washington State coaches of the error but not until the next play was run. Had the penalty been assessed to Cal, the ball would’ve been spotted at the Golden Bears’ 35-yard line rather than WSU’s 8-yard line – a 57-yard discrepancy.

The Cougars’ ensuing drive lasted 6 minutes, 38 seconds and resulted in a 35-yard field goal from Blake Mazza to cut Cal’s lead to 20-14.

“The Referee has subsequently been suspended for one game for the breakdown in officiating mechanics and communication,” the press release read. “The remaining members of the officiating crew have been downgraded.”

Cougars broadcaster Matt Chazanow initially reported the error Saturday night.

It’s the second time in two seasons a major officiating error has been made in a game involved WSU. Following the Cougars’ 2018 game at USC, the conference came under scrutiny when it was learned general counsel/administrator Woodie Dixon overturned a targeting call assessed to WSU defensive end Logan Tago while working from an off-site replay command center.

This offseason the Pac-12 made a handful of officiating changes in line with recommendations from Sibson Consulting and removed Dixon from the officiating process. The conference confirmed the director of officiating, David Coleman, will report directly to commissioner Larry Scott, rather than the football administrator, Dixon.

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