A battle of unbeaten teams ended in five overtimes Saturday when No. 17 Princeton knocked off No. 16 Harvard in five overtimes, but the game should've ended in three extra frames.
The Ivy League admitted Sunday that officials improperly blew a play dead in the bottom of the third overtime, nullifying what would've been a game-winning completion for Harvard. The Crimson had already stopped Princeton in the top of the third.
In the third overtime, Harvard threw a pass for a successful two-point conversion. After the play, the replay booth stopped the game for an official review. While the review did determine that the Princeton head coach called for timeout before the ball was snapped, the officiating crew made a procedural error as a timeout can only be recognized and granted prior to the snap by an on-field official and is not reviewable. Therefore, the timeout should not have been granted and the play should have resulted in a successful two-point conversion.
As it happened, Harvard's actual third overtime try was a completed pass, but that too was nullified due to offensive pass interference. Harvard's try from the 18-yard line was no good.
Jake Smith's pass in the top of the fourth overtime was intercepted and, after Jake Birmelin hauled in an acrobatic catch for Princeton in the top of the fifth overtime, Jake Smith's equalizer was batted away by Trevor Forbes and the game was over.
"The outcome of the game will stand as a win for Princeton," the Ivy League said in its statement. "The league office will address the error with the officials."
There's no two ways about it: The officiating error has a high chance of denying Harvard an Ivy League title, at least an outright one. Princeton now sits alone in first place at 3-0, while Harvard is one of four teams tied for second at 2-1.
The event will hopefully serve as a clarifying moment for all of NCAA football. At the FBS level, nearly weekly a play is blown dead mid-action because the replay official buzzed in nanoseconds before the ball was snapped.
Moving forward, common sense should prevail. If the ball is snapped, the play stands, period.