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Originally published Monday, October 9, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Pac-10 top official backs up his crew after Huskies loss

In the aftermath of the controversial ending to Washington's 26-20 defeat Saturday at USC, frustrated Husky fans and some in the media rushed...

Seattle Times staff reporter

In the aftermath of the controversial ending to Washington's 26-20 defeat Saturday at USC, frustrated Husky fans and some in the media rushed to condemn the outcome as another example of questionable Pac-10 officiating.

But Verle Sorgen, the coordinator of football officiating for the Pac-10, staunchly defended the actions of the officials, saying that a fake field goal pulled off by USC, as well as the final couple of seconds, were called correctly.

"I see nothing wrong with either of those two plays," Sorgen said Sunday.

Last month, members of a Pac-10 crew were suspended for one game after it was determined officials had missed two calls in Oregon's victory over Oklahoma.

Sorgen said he has talked with several of the officials who worked the game Saturday and reviewed TV replays. He will make a further review later in the week when he receives coach's film of the game as well as reports from both coaches, as is standard.

What he apparently won't receive, however, is any official complaint from UW. A school spokesman said Sunday the Huskies aren't likely to submit any official comment to the conference other than coach Tyrone Willingham's regular weekly report.

Washington fans and a couple of players complained that there were two problems with the final play of the game — that more time should have been put on the clock after Sonny Shackelford caught a pass moving the ball to the USC 15-yard line; and that the clock was started too soon once officials put the ball in play.

After officials conferred and agreed two seconds remaining was correct, UW was unable to get off a final snap. Some on UW's sideline appeared to be protesting that there should have been four or five seconds left.

Sorgen said officials handled the timing situation correctly by stopping to discuss it.

"The referee [Brian O'Cain] took his extra time in determining the time and the guy in charge of the clock, the back judge [John Freitas], was very clear that the clock was correct," Sorgen said.

Sorgen pointed out that stopping play to figure out the correct time should have helped the Huskies, which was something USC coach Pete Carroll complained about afterward.

"All this time, Washington had an opportunity to get ready for the play as they [the officials] confirmed it was two seconds and what I've been told is that Washington wasn't really ready to snap the ball, that they didn't have their players in place," Sorgen said.

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UW offensive coordinator Tim Lappano, who watched the play unfold from the press box, agreed with that view saying, "We should have been able to get the play off."

Some also questioned USC's fake field goal to score its first touchdown. On the play, receiver Steve Smith, who had been on the field for the failed third down, began walking to the sideline, then headed back to the line of scrimmage as the ball was snapped. Holder Michael McDonald took the snap with his knee down then threw to a wide-open Smith.

Sorgen said both aspects of the play were legal. While having a knee down usually stops the play in college football, Sorgen said there are exceptions for holders of field goals. In this case, Sorgen said, the kicker was still behind the holder in position to kick the ball, which allows for the holder to have his knee down then rise and throw.

"That looked perfectly legal," Sorgen said, adding that Oregon pulled off a similar play against California on Saturday.

Smith's actions also were legal, Sorgen said.

"I talked to the referee specifically about that and the player was inside the hash marks [for the huddle], which is the requirement, and then he went to the sideline," Sorgen said. "The instant replay official looked at it to make sure that USC didn't have more than 11 players on the field, so they were legal in every respect. They had their seven men on the line of scrimmage. The wide guy [Smith] was the seventh, so there is nothing [wrong] with that, either."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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