Sunday I noted the botched call by Pac-12 Referee Michael Batlan that likely cost USC an opportunity to attempt a game-winning field goal against Stanford in its eventual 56-48 triple-overtime loss to the Cardinal.
But as preposterous as that officiating error was, at least it involved a sliver of subjectivity.
You can’t say the same for the gross negligence shown by Batlan and a certain member of his officiating crew during a critical juncture in the second overtime.
Trailing USC 48-41 and in possession of the ball, Stanford was called for holding during a 2nd-and-5 play from the USC 20-yard line. The foul occurred at the line of scrimmage, which should’ve resulted in a 10-yard markoff against the Cardinal forcing Stanford’s offense into a 2nd-and-15 situation at the USC 30-yard line.
Strangely though, the ball was instead walked by Umpire Rick DiBernardo only back to the USC 22-yard line, somehow setting up a 2nd-and-7 play. So rather than penalize the potent Stanford offense - led by Heisman Trophy frontrunner Andrew Luck - 10 yards, the Cardinal was pushed back only two.
How could DiBernardo have made such an astonishing error?
Maybe his mind was wandering back to his days as a starting linebacker for Notre Dame during the ’80s.
UPDATE: For those wondering exactly where the holding penalty in question took place, here’s closeup video of what led to the epic, inexplicable blunder by game official - and former starting Notre Dame football player - Rick DiBernardo:
As the video shows, Stanford’s Geoff Meinken held USC’s Chris Galippo at the line of scrimmage from which Umpire DiBernardo should’ve walked off 10 yards to the USC 30-yard line.
Instead, DiBernardo spotted the ball at the 22-yard line, two yards behind the spot of the foul.