The reasonable among us aren’t arguing that line judge Richard Misner’s blown call cost State the game — we knew we’d have to keep scoring to win that game. But it’s entirely fair to say it shifted the momentum of a tight, hard-fought game squarely into Clemson’s favor.
This is all hypothetical, of course, but it gives you a good idea of how this call changed the game. Assuming that Misner’s bad whistle doesn’t blow the play dead and Underwood’s TD stands, and the next few series remain similar, then here’s how the game could’ve looked different:
*Assuming a good PAT, State leads 14-13 with 7:31 remaining in the third quarter.
*We eliminate Clemson’s quick score after this because the fumble at midfield never happened. On its next possession, Clemson scores a touchdown after a 10-play, 3:33 drive and leads 19-14 lead (remember, they went for two).
3:58, 3rd quarter
*Then, State manages that same 23-play, 7:37 drive, ending in a touchdown and a 21-19 lead.
11:21, 4th quarter
*At this point, State’s ensuing kickoff likely gives Clemson a long field, just like they’d had much of the night (to that point, Clemson had started inside its own 25 a total of five of its nine possessions). Clemson takes over, trailing 21-19, and begins its drive while swarmed by a deafening Carter-Finley stadium. It’s entirely likely Clemson would’ve scored on that drive, and took the lead, either 22-21 on a field goal or 27-21 on a touchdown (at that point they go for two, and assume they convert).
*But, the difference is now State would’ve had, at the very least, a chance to stop them on that drive, and/or score on its next possession. Either of those scenarios puts State in the driver’s seat down the stretch.
Instead, the touchdown run is called back, State fumbles three plays later, and Clemson throws a touchdown with 6:52 remaining in the third quarter to lead 20-7 and take control of what had to that moment been anyone’s game. Momentum matters, especially playing at home.
State was playing well enough to, at the very least, deserve the chance to determine the outcome — win or lose — on its own. And that chance was taken away by Misner’s bad call.