You gotta call a spade a spade: The Big Ten officiating crew won that game for Northwestern. PERIOD.
Of course, that's not to say that the Commodores didn't do everything they could to torpedo any legitimate chance they had to win: missed PAT, multiple idiotic personal fouls, botched snaps on two-point conversion attempts, etc. However, despite all these miscues, the game was on the line with that 3rd down play late in the fourth quarter.
Northwestern QB Dan Persa's legs were the bane of the VU defense all night. Fitting, then, that it came on a running play. To quote the AP write-up:
Northwestern faced third-and-6 from its own 33 when Persa was hit a yard short of the first down marker by Vandy safety Jay Fullam. But officials flagged him for a high hit and a personal foul, allowing Northwestern to run out the clock even though it looked on replay as if Fullam simply put his shoulder into Persa's shoulder for the stop.
Instead of letting the players settle it out on the field with a 4th and 1, the Big Ten officiating crew took action to ensure Northwestern would escape what would certainly have been considered an embarrassing loss for the conference. Those officials weren't going to let the worst team in the SEC last season knock off a middle-tier Big Ten squad.
Vandy got screwed tonight. Tack on another one for Vandy Football, which has seen screw jobs from officiating crews from every BCS conference (the SEC especially). How can you expect conference-affiliated officiating crews to be unbiased when there are literally millions of dollars at stake? We can't have Vanderbilts threatening teams expected to bring in bowl money, now can we?
The worst part about the whole thing is that there's not a damn thing the NCAA cares to do about it. It's a disgrace.
More thoughts tomorrow. I thought the team played well. I was encouraged with the size of the crowd. We lost but we fought through some adversity. And we even covered, which was my baseline hope.
Pray for me when I watch the replay. My head might explode.