Controversial pass interference call thwarts Clemson's last, best chance against LSU

Clemson's last gasp was stifled by a questionable pass interference penalty against Tee Higgins. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

After Clemson opened the second of half of Monday’s CFP national championship with a touchdown drive, LSU reeled off a pair of unanswered scores to seize control with a 42-25 fourth-quarter lead.

Facing a 17-point deficit, Clemson looked for a big play to get back into the game when Trevor Lawrence looked deep to Tee Higgins down the left sideline on a first-down pass from the LSU 48-yard line.

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Higgins battled for the ball with LSU’s Kary Vincent Jr. inside the five-yard line. The 6-4 receiver used his size advantage over the 5-10 cornerback to come up with the catch and the touchdown.

No touchdown

Except there was a flag.

Officials ruled that Higgins interfered with Vincent to make the play. Instead of a touchdown to cut the lead to 10 points, Clemson was docked 15 yards and eventually forced to punt on the drive.

Was this OPI?

It was Clemson’s last, best chance in LSU’s eventual national championship victory. And it was a borderline call. At best.


Higgins and Vincent both initiated contact on the play that could have just as easily been called defensive pass interference if anything at all. Vincent was beat on the play and reached out to grab Higgins on the underthrown ball.

In reality, it defined a play-on situation, and Higgins should have been awarded the score.

Would the play have sparked a Clemson comeback with more than 10 minutes remaining in the game? We’ll never know. LSU looked like the clearly superior team at the moment, so there was still plenty of work to do.

But that’s a call that shouldn’t occur at this stage in a football season — or any, for that matter.

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