Bowl game experience special for officals

Register Sports Editor

Register File Photo/Jocelyn Sheets
John Masterson, a Big 12 football official, listens to a Kansas State assistant coach during 2006 game at Manhattan. Last Friday, the Iola native officiated the 2010 Outback Bowl game in Tampa, Fla.
Courtesy Photo
Joe Blubaugh, a Big 12 football official, watches as a coach makes a point during a regular season game. Last Friday, the Erie native was officiating the 2010 Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, Calif.

Explaining college football overtime rules to Auburn head coach Gene Chizik during a timeout was John Masterson, Iola native and side line judge for the Big 12 officiating crew at the 2010 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
Signaling touchdown on the first score of the 2010 Rose Bowl game, then watching Ohio State’s Brandon Saine do a tight rope act along the same sideline was Joe Blubaugh, Erie native and the field judge for the Big 12 officiating crew in Pasadena, Calif.
Masterson and Blubaugh got a little “face” time on national television Friday but not much and that was fine with them.
“As officials we don’t want to be on television. Being able to call a game without much attention is what we’re after,” Masterson told the Register before the bowl games last week.
And for the most part Masterson, the guy with the big S on his back in Friday’s Outback Bowl game, wasn’t seen much. Nor was Blubaugh, the guy with the big F on his back at the Rose Bowl later Friday afternoon.
“As a field judge, being 20 to 25 yards down the sideline, I only average about one penalty call a game. I had two in the Rose Bowl,” Blubaugh said. “The first touchdown by Ohio State was to my side and I called it.
“I don’t know how that one player stayed in bounds as long as he did on that one catch but he did. There was one other tight catch to my sideline.”
Masterson said the Outback Bowl game between Auburn and Northwestern was his first NCAA Division I football game to go to overtime. He said there was a time in the fourth quarter he thought that Auburn would win.
“But the last two minutes of the fourth quarter we had a lot of crazy stuff. Northwestern wasn’t ready to fold. They scored but missed the extra point then Auburn fumbles and Northwestern scores a touchdown and gets the two-point conversion.
“Then Auburn fumbles the kickoff which allowed Northwestern to drive for a possible winning field goal.”
Unfortunately, Northwestern’s field goal kicker missed the field goal attempt. That meant overtime.
“I’d say this was probably the best game I’ve been a part of,” Masterson said. “Not until the gala held the night before and the Outback Bowl CEO said did I realize, I would be working in the first college game of 2010. That was neat.”
In the overtime, Auburn kicked a field goal to take the lead. Northwestern got its chance to score but quarterback Mike Kafka fumbled when he was sacked. That was the ruling on the field and Auburn thought it had won.
Not so fast.
“I knew by the look on my referee’s face that the game wasn’t over yet. Usually, at the end of the game, we run off the field but he wasn’t moving,” Masterson said. “He wanted to get it right.
“We had a lot of impact decisions late in the game. Sure enough our pagers went off and the replay official overturned the ruling.”
Northwestern had new life but more “wackiness.”
Masterson said he felt bad for the Northwestern kicker. Stefan Demos missed the possible winning field goal then in overtime then had a chance to kick a field goal to tie and the kick hit the upright. Game over. Auburn wins.
But no. Auburn was called for roughing the kicker — Demos — on the play. Demos was carried off the field injured. Northwestern’s Wildcats had another life.
With a backup placekicker, the Wildcats tried a trick play that fell short. Auburn won the game.
“I’ve never been a part of a game with that many endings. Yes, we had a good game as a Big 12 officiating crew. We had the illegal batting of ball penalty, which we had right but then we determined the runner was done before fumbling so there was no penalty,” Masterson said.
For Masterson, the Outback Bowl was a full experience. He said the Outback Bowl committee provided great accomidations and activities for the officials and their wives.
“Those people proposing a playoff system need to experience a bowl game atmosphere. The bowl committees really provide a great experience for the players and all of us associated with the game,” Masterson said.
“One special play for me, since I’m from Kansas was when Northwestern’s Drake Dunsmore took a swing pass, broke some tackles and went 66 yards for a touchdown. Dunsmore played for St. Thomas Aquinas High in Kansas City. The play didn’t come down my side.”
Masterson is the director of education at Ballard Community Services in Lawrence. Ballard is a non-profit organization which provides early education to children up to kindergarten age.
About an hour after Masterson had begun his work at the Outback Bowl, Blubaugh and the other six officials of the Rose Bowl crew were “walking the field.
“On Wednesday we got to tour the stadium but couldn’t get on the field. Thursday we went back and were on the field. It was the nicest grass I’ve ever seen. Oregon had just finished a walk-through and left the field. We and a few others were the only ones on the field,” Blubaugh said.
“Around 11 Friday morning we were back and walked the field. We went out about an hour before the game. We did have to stand between the two teams at midfield before the went in the locker rooms.
“Then when I walked out with the Ohio State captains, the crowd was there and it was really something special.”
Blubaugh said once the game got started it went much like any game. He said he’d officiated at Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma so he wasn’t overwhelmed by the stadium.
“You just knew it was a special game. There was one moment during a television timeout that the line judge and I were talking and noticed the sun setting. The orange sky, the Rose Bowl and stadium together was neat,” Blubaugh said.
Blubaugh said he was watching the blocks when Oregon’s LeGarrette Blount fumbled the football in the third quarter.
“He was out there a few yards and I was watching the blocks then the football came squirting at me. Ohio State tried to recover the ball in bounds but it went out after going through the end zone.”
Blubaugh also gave the Big 12 crew he worked on a good grade in its bowl game. He said the officials met several times in the week to make sure everyone was on the same page.
“The challenge for us as officials in that game was the different styles of play. Ohio State would huddle up and take a lot of the play clock to run its plays. Oregon ran a no-huddle offense and snapped the ball early in the play clock. We have our pre-snap rituals as a crew. When Ohio State was on offense we could be pretty methodical about it but we had to be up and ready when Oregon had the football,” Blubaugh said.
Blubaugh, who is in engineering software sales, took his family with him. They were able to tour the making of the floats for the Rose Bowl parade. Blubaugh’s family watched the parade from the main grandstand.
“The Rose Bowl committee really treated us very well. All the bowl game committees do,” Blubaugh said. “My mother-in-law and my daughters went back to the hotel. My wife and father-in-law came to the game and had a great time.
“The stadium was divided up with half for Ohio State and half for Oregon. That was different than a regular game where most of the crowd is cheering for one team.
“It was a great experience for me and my family.”