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PHOTO: Did SDSU player recover Crockett's fumble cleanly?

by Mike McFeely

North Dakota State's football team whomped South Dakota State 20-0 on Saturday, using its tried-and-true formula (for the past 3 seasons, anyway) of defensive dominance mixed with an offensive line that physically pounds and demoralizes the opposing defense. I've seen it, you've seen it, NDSU's opponents have seen it. Nothing new there.

Also, before we go any further, let's make this clear: The Bison were the better team by a sound margin. They won the game, they deserved to win the game and they continue to deserve being the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.

OK, the disclaimers are taken care of.

One play that I thought was big, and was grossly underplayed on the television broadcast (I watched the game from my living room), was Bison running back John Crockett fumbling on NDSU's first drive of the fourth quarter and the ball being recovered by SDSU's Winston Wright. The officials hesitated, sort of looked at each other, then ruled Wright was out-of-bounds. NDSU retained possession, with the ball moved back to the spot where Crockett fumbled.

Crockett followed with carries of 4, 14, 16 and 14 yards, the latter going for NDSU's second touchdown and (after a missed PAT) a 13-0 lead. 

When Crockett fumbled and Wright pounced on the ball, my initial reaction was it was Jackrabbit ball. It looked like Wright was in-bounds and it appeared he cleanly snatched up the football. But the camera angle offered by MidCo Sports out of Sioux Falls was less-than-ideal (I think they only offered one replay angle) and the moment passed without the TV broadcast team dwelling on it.

SDSU's coaches didn't seem too worked up about it either, but then again it happened across the field from them so they didn't have much of an angle. A few Jackrabbit players protested the call on the field.

UPDATE: Here is video of the play. It was clearly not obvious in full speed, so SDSU can't complain. But it could have been called either way.

UPDATE 1:45 p.m.: NDSU sports information director Ryan Perrault tweeted me: "I believe the videoboard replay showed the ball pop loose as he was sliding out of bounds." As I said, I wasn't at the stadium, so I didn't see the video board.

And, in the end, the game turned into a fourth-quarter blowout so the play was sort of lost in the hoopla of NDSU's win.

But I thought the non-recovery ruling was big because even though NDSU was dominating defensively and it sure didn't look like the Jackrabbits were going to get much going offensively ... the score was STILL only 7-0 in favor of NDSU. 

Crockett fumbled the ball at midfield, so an SDSU recovery would have given the Jacks possession at their own 48 with plenty of time left on the clock.

It also appeared the ruling deflated the Jackrabbits. As I said, Crockett's next four plays totaled 48 yards and SDSU didn't offer much resistance. Of course, NDSU's offensive line played a rather large role in that. 

Anyway, one of our KFGO guys -- Chase Miller -- was videotaping highlights of the game for our Web site and happened to be in great position to capture the play. He watched the video and said it appears SDSU's Wright made a clean recovery.

I asked Chase to grab me a stop-action of the recovery and I'll reproduce it here. It certainly shows Wright had green grass between him and the sideline. And it certainly shows the official was in good position to see the play. 

Again, it doesn't make any difference. The game is over and done. NDSU won fair and square. But it is an interesting photo.

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)