St. Louis Sports Online

Eric Niederhoffer 

St. Louis SportsOnline

columnist & principal photographer

Onward to victory? 14 December 2001

As reported in the Chicago Tribune on Thursday 13 December 2001:

"Bridgewater College of Virginia will play in the Amos Alonzo Stag Bowl against Mt. Union of Ohio on Saturday in the Division III championship game even though NCAA officials and Bridgewater agree that only a timekeeping error made it possible.
Last Saturday the clock stopped at :01 -but play continued- as the Eagles tried to rally against Rowan in the semifinals. The halt allowed Bridgewater to run one more play, a touchdown pass that produced a 29-24 victory.
The mistake was confirmed by NCAA and Bridgewater officials after they watched a replay that showed the play with the game clock visible in the background."

For those of you who are familiar with football history, these sorts of errors (in timekeeping or down counts) may not be too surprising.

In November 1940, undefeated Cornell University played Dartmouth for a chance at the Number One ranking. However, the underdogs from Dartmouth managed a slim 3-0 lead into the final minute of play and stopped Cornell on four consecutive plays. The game officials during a period of confusion believed that only three downs were played and allowed another down for Cornell. The fifth down was used by Cornell to score a touchdown and extra point and escape with an apparent 7-3 victory. The officials realized their mistake but insisted that the result could not be changed.

Quoting from Murray Sperber's Onward To Victory,

"In view of the conclusions reached by the officials that the Cornell touchdown was scored on a fifth down, Cornell relinquishes claim to the victory and extends congratulations to Dartmouth."
-Statement from Cornell Athletic Director James Lynah to Dartmouth College
"I accept the final conclusion of the officials and without reservation concede the victory to Dartmouth ... with hearty congratulations to you and the gallant Dartmouth team."
-Statement from Cornell Coach Carl Snavely to Dartmouth College

Fifty years later, Colorado benefited from a similar fifth down during their pursuit of a national championship. In this instant, Colorado refused to give back the victory.

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