On Saturday, JMU lost 35-33 to Akron after a controversial last drive in which the Dukes were called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the referees let the clock run out before setting the ball, costing JMU a chance to kick a last-second field goal. Madison coach Mickey Matthews was mad after the game, and he was still mad Monday when he spent nearly half of 30-minute press conference talking about the officiating. This story ran Sept. 10, 2013.
HARRISONBURG, Va. — Mickey Matthews said he doesn’t intend to file a grievance with the Mid-American Conference — although he said he thought about it — regarding the officiating on the last drive of James Madison’s 35-33 loss to Akron.
But that doesn’t mean JMU’s football coach is over an unsportsmanlike conduct call that cost the Dukes 15 yards on the last drive, or the referees not being able to set the ball in time for JMU to attempt a last-second field goal Saturday at InfoCision Stadium.
“You all know I play a lot of golf,” Matthews said Monday at his weekly press conference. “You know when you three-putt, you’ve got to walk off the green and tee off in about two minutes, so you’ve … got to move on very quickly, so that’s what I mean. I mean, I’ll be mad 10 years from now [about] the way the officials handled that. Some people get over it. God did not make that part of my fiber.”
On the last drive of the game, with the Dukes trailing 35-33 and only 1:19 on the clock to start the possession, JMU senior tailback Dae’Quan Scott got what Matthews on Monday described as a questionable dead-ball unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It wiped out a 4-yard gain for a first down at the JMU 31-yard line. Instead, the Dukes got the ball at their 16.
Then, after quarterback Michael Birdsong completed a pass to wide receiver Arlandis Harvey for what was close to a first down with about 10 seconds to play, the referees couldn’t get the ball set in time for the Dukes to run one last play. It presumably would have been a roughly 44-yard field goal attempt to win it. Because the ball was never set, the clock ran out, and JMU (1-1) lost, pushing Matthews over the edge.
“I disagreed with the officials on how they handled it,” he said. “I probably told them that.”
Still, Matthews said he’s not filing a complaint with the MAC because it won’t change the outcome of Saturday’s game, which JMU led 13-0 at one point and had every chance to win. The victory would have been the fifth in the Division I-AA program’s history over a I-A opponent. All time, Madison is 4-18 against I-A teams.
“I’m still mad about it, but I do have the intelligence to know you can’t do anything about it,” Matthews said.
Bill Carollo, the MAC’s head of officiating, could not be reached for comment Monday, but Ken Mather, the MAC’s assistant commissioner for media relations, said Carollo is willing to discuss the end of the JMU-Akron game after he’s reviewed the game tape. Mather said it would take a “day or so.” Carollo also is the head of officiating for the Big Ten and Missouri Valley Conference.
Matthews said he also doesn’t complain to the Colonial Athletic Association about officiating. According to Matthews, he sent “zero” plays to the league last year to review, while other teams sent as many as “30 and 40.”
“If it doesn’t involve winning or losing, I’m not really interested in it,” Matthews said. “I don’t think there’s anything to accomplish. I think we’ve made our point.”
Seconds later, he made it again.
“It was mishandled. That [penalty on Scott] should not have been called, and they should have stopped the clock,” said Matthews, whose team hosts Saint Francis (0-1) on Saturday. “There was too much time left on the clock to just stand there and let the clock run out. They should have stopped the clock, marked the ball to about three or four seconds.”
Matthews said the unsportsmanlike conduct call on Scott shouldn’t have been made because it wasn’t obvious — a change from his initial feeling. After the game Saturday, Matthews said he didn’t see the penalty but deferred to the referees’ judgment.
“I’m sure it was a good call by the officials,” he said Saturday.
Monday, Matthews had a different opinion.
“It’s really difficult to see on the tape, but Dae’Quan should have had more poise, and regardless of whose fault it was, I was more upset with the call. Period,” Matthews said. You ask [JMU men’s basketball] Coach [Matt] Brady and the basketball staff — anyone watching a big basketball game. In the last two minutes of a big game, unless it’s mass murder, they don’t call any fouls. It should be the same. There was no reason to call it because, when the official made that call, he basically ended the game.”
But the Dukes’ loss certainly wasn’t all on the referees. Matthews said JMU was culpable of poor clock management that forced the Dukes to burn timeouts in the second half – notably one before a 45-yard field goal – and the 59-year-old coach took responsibility for that, as well as the numerous unsportsmanlike conduct penalties incurred by the Dukes on Saturday. For the game, Madison had nine penalties for 72 yards.
“We lost our discipline there,” Matthews said, referring to the timeout before the field goal. “That was my fault. That’s not the kids’ fault.”
But Matthews said the officiating is a major reason he doesn’t like playing I-A teams.
“People always ask about these games — how come I don’t like these games. What happened in the last 30 seconds of that game is why I don’t like those games,” he said. “I don’t like going to their stadiums, having their officials. You’re just kind of at their mercy. I’m like everyone else wearing purple – it’s a great trip. I enjoy going to Maryland, Virginia Tech, Chapel Hill. I think they’re pretty, have great hotels, great food. I know the fans love to go. It’s fun — it’s great fun. But during the game, when you’re playing at their stadium and it’s their officials, it’s not a lot of fun.”