MAC commish rips Cure Bowl referees over 'egregious errors' late in 4th quarter

The Huskies were driving with a few seconds left down six points. Northern Illinois, which plays in the MAC, got the ball to the Chanticleers’ 4-yard line for a first down. But with 2 seconds remaining, the clock began to run without the referee finishing spotting the football.

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Coastal Carolina quarterback Bryce Carpenter (12) rolls out to throw the ball against Northern Illinois during the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.

Coastal Carolina quarterback Bryce Carpenter (12) rolls out to throw the ball against Northern Illinois during the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Rocky Lombardi was about to take the snap but time ran out, and the game was ruled over. Players from Coastal Carolina, who compete in the Sun Belt Conference, began to celebrate while Northern Illinois players looked stunned.

Steinbrecher was unhappy with the ending.

GRAYSON MCCALL, COASTAL CAROLINA BEAT NORTHERN ILLINOIS IN CURE BOWL

Northern Illinois running back Jay Ducker (8) runs the ball against Coastal Carolina during the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.

Northern Illinois running back Jay Ducker (8) runs the ball against Coastal Carolina during the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel via AP)

“At the end of last night’s NIU vs. Coastal Carolina football game in Orlando, a series of errors by the on-field officials and the replay official denied NIU the opportunity to run one more play,” Steinbrecher said. “Following the reception along the sideline, the play should have been stopped for a review. Also, the clock was not managed appropriately on what should have been the final play as the center judge should have been allowed to clear the center before the referee wound the clock. 

“This should not have occurred, and the egregious errors around a potential game-changing situation is both unfortunate and unacceptable. Congratulations to the student-athletes and coaches at NIU and Coastal Carolina for tremendous seasons and a hard-fought bowl game.”

Conference USA officials were refereeing the game. The conference acknowledged errors in a separate statement.

“At the conclusion of last night’s Tailgreeter Cure Bowl, a replay review should have been warranted following a reception along the sideline with two seconds remaining. With the time remaining, there was a mechanical error in how the clock was managed. The center judge should have been allowed to clear the line of scrimmage before the clock was started,” C-USA Coordinator of Football Officials Mike Defee said in a statement.

Northern Illinois won the MAC title after a winless 2020 season, but Coastal Carolina won the Cure Bowl, 47-41.

Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall (10) steps out of the grasp of a Northern Illinois defender during the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. 

Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall (10) steps out of the grasp of a Northern Illinois defender during the Cure Bowl in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.  (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall threw four touchdown passes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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