K-State mounted a furious second-half rally but came up short in a 40-35 loss to UCLA in the Alamo Bowl. After Jake Waters found Tyler Lockett for a 29-yard touchdown pass, UCLA recovered K-State's impressive onside kick attempt with 1:21 remaining in the game. K-State had only one timeout remaining, so if the Bruins could complete two center-to-quarterback exchanges before falling to the ground, the Westwood outfit was assured victory.
To my great surprise, K-State did not call its one remaining timeout after Brett Hundley kneeled on first down. Using a timeout assured UCLA would have to snap the ball three times, rather than two. The odds they'd fumble the ball at that point were low, but as a general principle, you do anything you can within the rules to extend the game and increase your chances of winning.
K-State did call timeout after UCLA kneeled on second down. On third down, UCLA once again lined up in the victory formation, when this happened:
It's difficult to tell who did what in that picture, but a K-State lineman definitely submarines under the center to try and force a fumble, and it looks like Dante Barnett dives over the line. Apparently, K-State's willingness to play until the final whistle led to this:
Jim Mora, that's weak to do that to Bill Snyder, especially after your team won! Geez http://t.co/RHvH2Ks6yE
— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) January 3, 2015
Interesting: There was a second Mora, Snyder handshake. Much longer discussion. https://t.co/6pUVJPTsGO
— David Ubben (@davidubben) January 3, 2015
And then this:
I will defend the safety of my players...forever.
— Jim Mora (@UCLACoachMora) January 3, 2015
It's clear from the second video and the tweet that Mora considers it dangerous that K-State attempted to dive into the backfield and either force or recover a fumble when UCLA was trying to run out the clock. Toward that end, Mora sounds like the MLB manager who instructs a pitcher to throw at a hitter over a slow home-run trot.
Except it's actually more pathetic than that. He was pissy with a fellow coach and couched it in terms of protecting his players. I tend to doubt that 75-year-old Bill Snyder posed much of a threat to his 18-22 year old players, who mostly run 6-feet+ and better than 200 lbs. And UCLA isn't slated to face K-State again anytime soon, so any message he sent was hollow at best.
So let's turn to what K-State did late. College football teams are allotted three timeouts per half, to use (mostly) as they please. Using a timeout late to force an opponent to execute a basic football action one more time is well within the rules of the game.
What about diving over the line of scrimmage to force or recover a fumbled snap exchange? On this point, I'll defer to Roy Williams:
Given the focus on player safety lately, I'm also going to assume that it's not an oversight by the rulemakers that plays like this aren't considered a safety issue. Notice that Hundley had two players flanking him immediately behind his offensive line, with the ostensible purpose of defending him. In fact, that's exactly what they did.
So what is this? Cheap grandstanding. It's a coach with very definite ideas about the right and wrong way to play the game. A coach who believes that once your opponent has a lead with 1:21 remaining and you only have one timeout remaining, that you concede defeat and shake hands honorably. It's a coach who also forgets that his team committed an unsportsmanlike conduct and four personal foul penalties, thereby unnecessarily endangering the safety of their opponent by the definition of the very rules of the game.
Class is a tired and overused canard every time an opponent, often a victorious one, does something that falls below the delicate sensibilities of the defeated. But this isn't about "class," whatever that nebulous concept means. This is about whether K-State did something that unnecessarily endangered the safety of an opponent. If they had, then I could understand Mora's outrage. Instead, Mora acted like a whiny and petulant child who wanted an easier ending to this game than his team had earned.