Washington's trick play too tricky, curiously flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct

Washington's Chico McClatcher was penalized in the first half vs. Oregon. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

A trick play that No. 25 Washington ran in the first half against No. 12 Oregon was apparently too tricky.

After Oregon took a 7-0 lead, Washington used a bit of deception to return the ensuing kickoff out to midfield. Receiver Aaron Fuller fielded the kickoff, ran a few yards upfield and then threw the ball across the field to teammate Chico McClatcher. Because the throw was a lateral, the speedy McClatcher was able to advance the ball to midfield, catching Oregon’s kickoff team off guard.

But McClatcher had plenty of room to run because he actually was laying down on his stomach in the end zone when Fuller fielded the ball. According to the Pac-12 officiating crew, that bit of deception — “laying in the end zone,” as the official described it — was worthy of a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct

(via ABC)

If you’re confused as to why exactly laying down in the end zone is a penalty, ESPN rules expert Bill Lemonnier said it’s a fairly new addition to the rule book.

“One of the things they put in a year or two ago was you cannot take a player and lay him down to decoy like he’s not on the field,” Lemonnier said on the ABC broadcast. “And he laid down in the end zone to blend in with the end zone so the kicking team couldn’t see him. Then he got up. He’s the guy that caught the backward pass. That’s why it’s an unsportsmanlike conduct foul. It was instituted a couple years ago because so many of the teams were doing deceptive things in relation to the color of their jerseys laying in the end zone.”

That specific example Lemonnier, a longtime Big Ten referee, referenced is not listed in the FBS rule book’s section on unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. However, the rule book does have an article on “unfair acts” that says “an obviously unfair act not specifically covered by the rules” can result in an unsportsmanlike conduct foul.

We’ve seen the same play from teams in recent years, including Oregon State in 2018. OSU was not flagged.

On Saturday, Oregon was able to kickoff again because of the penalty on Washington. The second kickoff went for a touchback and Washington took over at its own 25.

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