More often than football fans would like, exhuberance is often mistaken for unsportsmanlike behavior. Egregious celebrations aside, players should have a little wiggle room to be excited. The good news is that they usually get it. Unfortunately that was not the case for Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor. The great fourth quarter comeback by the Midshipmen was all for naught when Proctor was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty after scoring in overtime Saturday against Air Force.
The overtime touchdown was Navy’s first lead against Air Force. Football is a game of yards, and the 15 yards that came with the flag turned out to be very costly. After being pushed back on their extra-point attempt, Navy missed the kick and their lead stood at six points. Air Force subsequently scored and kicked the PAT to win the game. After coming back from 18 points and taking the lead, this was a rip-your-heart-out kind of penalty.
But should Proctor have been penalized? On replay, Proctor emerged from the pile and slighty shoved a Falcon player (I say “slightly” because the man barely even registered the contact) as he made his way to the other side of the pile. Then, he pushed another Falcon who was still standing over the pile, presumably to get him out of the way so his teammates could get up. We’re talking about a man full of glee and adrenaline and testosterone. Still, nothing Proctor did seemed that flagrant, especially if you consider the circumstances.
Back judge David Vaughan, who threw the flag, probably missed the Steelers/Ravens game because there were at least a half dozen altercations that looked much worse than Proctor’s penalty. The call was sort of like getting ticketed for speeding at 70 on the freeway.
Although the place-kicker should have made what was basically a chip shot FG, plays ought to be analyzed on their own, not what comes afterward. In this case, neither Vaughan, nor Proctor should be tongue-whipped. Instead, let’s ask ourselves why referees, especially the college variety, don’t start giving a little more space between bad sportsmanship and joy? It’s not like Proctor jumped up just to get into it with an Air Force defender.