The offensive pass interference penalty that negated LSU's first-quarter touchdown in a 30-point loss last week at Mississippi State was a foul according to the rule book.
SEC head of officials Steve Shaw addressed the pass interference flag Wednesday on the SEC teleconference. Though league officials, like Shaw, do not comment on specific plays, he cited the rule when asked about the penalty Saturday called on Tigers receiver Stephen Sullivan.
"The rule itself states it’s the responsibility of the offensive player to avoid opponents. The receiver, he knows where he’s going, knows his route. The defender doesn’t know where he’s going," Shaw said.
"By rule, since he’s got to avoid the opponent, there is a responsibility on that offensive player," he continued. "Typically what our guys look at ... if you see a receiver move directly at a defender or initiate or create contact with him, then typically, that’s what gets the alert of the official. Coaches have plays they call “rub” or whatever, but if they are initiating or seeking out that defender or creating contact, by rule that’s a foul."
Shaw called offensive pass interference "a very tough judgement call."
The play negated what would have been a 67-yard touchdown from quarterback Danny Etling to receiver DJ Chark in the first quarter of an eventual 37-7 loss to Mississippi State.
Coach Ed Orgeron said earlier this week that he requested a comment from the league on the penalty. Shaw declined to discuss his response to Orgeron's request. The SEC office does not comment on communications between Shaw and league coaches, SEC associate commissioner Herb Vincent said in an email earlier this week.
Lowell Narcisse is getting a workout this week.
LSU players took issue with the call. Chark called it "terrible," and Etling said the play was executed as the Tigers practiced it.
ESPN color analyst Todd Blackledge, calling the game, insisted that the flag should not have been thrown. Live on air, he called the official's decision "horrible."
LSU executed what's often referred to as a "rub route," Blackledge says on air. State defensive back Mark McLaurin picks up Chark, in motion from left to right before the snap, in man coverage. Sullivan effects the route, tangling up two defensive backs, McLaurin and his own man, Tolando Cleveland, to leave Chark wide open.
On the call, Blackledge faults McLaurin, saying that it's his job to get out of the way of Sullivan. "(Sullivan) didn't turn to block the guy. He just got caught up," Blackledge said. "I don't think that's a penalty. I think it's a bad call."
“He held up because the DB ran into him," Etling said earlier this week. "If I’d thrown the ball to Stephen, it probably would have been (defensive) pass interference. It’s just a bad break.”
Almost every college football team in America runs some sort of a rub play. Clemson's game-winning TD pass against Alabama in last year's national championship game is a good example. Sometimes it's called for offensive pass interference and sometimes it's not.
One series later, a State receiver was flagged for something similar during an incomplete pass.