Mississippi State didn't play a great game on Saturday in the 31-29 loss to the Memphis Tigers. The Bulldogs hurt themselves with penalty after penalty and certainly failed to meet their goal of maintaining consistency.
But the way they lost the game was completely out of their control, and despite the subpar overall performance from the team, all signs point to that the Bulldogs would be 3-0 headed into the matchup against LSU.
Just watching the game, it seemed like the Bulldogs constantly had to stay on the crew of officials -- which included Marc Curles, who has already been suspended once for high-profile mistakes.
Even outside of the most egregious call made, there were others -- from as early on as the bottom of the first quarter, when MSU was clearly looking to call timeout before the officials called delay of game. But the Bulldogs were penalized anyway.
That doesn't even begin to compare what happened on Calvin Austin III's 94-yard punt return for a touchdown that never should have been, though. On the Memphis punt, cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. had his hand on the ball and thought he had downed it.
The referee signaled the play was over and that should have been the end of the story, but instead, it allowed Memphis 21 unanswered points, extending its lead from 21-17 to 28-17 with just under six minutes to play. It should also be noted that there were two Memphis players wearing the No. 4 jersey at the same time, so the whole play should have been void as it was.
The Bulldogs scored a touchdown less than three minutes after Austin’s return to trim Memphis’ lead to 28-23.
But was more controversy that followed that, when the Bulldogs were called for illegal touching on an onside kick, in which the referees overturned after review -- but then they retroactively awarded an illegal block penalty on MSU. The Bulldogs had to kick it again and it was recovered by Memphis, which tacked on a field goal on that possession.
MSU put points on the board roughly 30 seconds later, with quarterback Will Rogers coming up short on the two-point conversion that allowed the Tigers to kneel their way to victory -- one that perhaps they never would have achieved if it weren't for the officiating mistakes.
They say that in the SEC, "it just means more." But the statement issued after the game more so reflected "it just means less."
MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen released a statement on Sunday.
"I appreciate the transparency of the SEC and the admission of officiating errors yesterday," Cohen wrote. "It is extremely disappointing when student-athletes are not fully in control of a game's outcome, especially when taking into consideration the time, effort and resources put into an officiating system created to eliminate human error on the field whenever possible. The entire SEC has an expectation that the process will work as intended. Our football program's focus is now on LSU."
Just like all the other times things like this have happened and teams have potentially been cheated out of a win due to the shortcomings of a group of officials, nothing will come of it.
MSU will be forced to move on, try to forget about this as it puts the loss behind it and looks to move to 3-1 against a visiting LSU team on Saturday. It is all the Bulldogs can do -- it's all any team that has dealt with the aftermath of these crucial errors by others has ever been able to do.
And until the SEC makes some changes, until the SEC has more consequences for these shortcomings from officials, until the SEC finds some sort of effective and fair solution to this -- you can guarantee it will happen again.