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SEC cops to multiple blown calls - on same key play - as Memphis upsets Mississippi State

The SEC-based crew in Memphis blew multiple calls on a 96-yard punt return for touchdown that proved crucial in the Tigers' 31-29 win.

It wasn't enough that the Southeastern Conference lost a rare out-of-conference game to the American Athletic Conference.

Saturday's regional rivalry featuring SEC resident Mississippi State at Memphis – the two schools are separated by a mere 180 miles, most of it along I-55 – not only featured the Tigers prevailing against Mike Leach's Bulldogs, but it also featured a see-it-to-believe-it play in which the SEC after the game admitted multiple mistakes by its officiating crew.

How bad were the miscues in Memphis' 31-29 upset-win?

Well, the SEC – which, remember – touted the partnership of the College Football Playoff expansion talks while also privately working to pry away Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 – was forced late Saturday night to issue a statement that declared just how blown the blown play was.

“On the play, the Back Judge gave a single “stop the clock” signal immediately after the receiving team possessed the ball.

“The inadvertent signal aspect of the play is reviewable and replay should have stopped the game to review.”

Wait, wait, wait. There's more.

Additionally, two Memphis players wore the No. 4 jersey – Calvin Austin III and Maurice White are both listed as No. 4 per the Tigers' official roster – and the SEC crew failed to flag the Tigers for what should have been an illegal participation penalty.

It was Austin – who finished with three touchdowns – who picked up the punt and outraced the Bulldogs 94 yards all the way to paydirt and a 28-17 Memphis lead.

“On the same play,” the SEC said in its statement, “two Memphis players were wearing No. 4, which is a violation and should have resulted in a 5-yard penalty on Memphis.”

Members of the crew aren't unaccustomed to controversy in their calls. A dozen years ago, the crew of Marc Curles – referee in this game – was suspended multiple weeks by the SEC as it pertained to erroneous calls in a game that featured then-No. 1 Florida coming back to defeat Arkansas.

Leach was asked about the controversial play after the game.

“Did they call the play dead,” Leach asked.

Told that officials signaled, Leach said, “So, they did call the play dead. We'll have to look at that on film. Maybe some others will, too.”