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COLUMN: Was Justin Rennicks offside?


Sophomore midfielder Justin Rennicks runs with the ball Sept. 7 against Virginia Commonwealth University at Bill Armstrong Stadium. Rennicks scored the game-winning goal against No. 8 Notre Dame on Tuesday.  Matt Begala Buy Photos

Tuesday night’s game against No. 8 Notre Dame ended in controversy. 

The No. 2 Hoosiers and Fighting Irish were tied at one a piece at the end of regulation and went into overtime. Just two minutes and 17 seconds into OT, the Hoosiers found themselves with a corner. The ball was bounced around in the box until it found the foot of sophomore Justin Rennicks, who had his back turned to the net, and flicked the ball in behind him to end the game. 

IU won 2-1. 

But should they have?

The big question about Rennicks’ goal was whether or not he was offsides on the play. The referees even debated it for a hot minute before saying their call stands, ending the game. 

The Notre Dame players, coaches and fans were howling at the officials to talk it over more and reverse the call, but the decision was made, and the Hoosiers were shaking hands and heading back to the locker room.  

The Fighting Irish, however, were right. 

By the time the ball got to Rennicks, he was behind all of the Notre Dame defenders, and he was offsides. 

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As shown right here, Rennicks was not offsides as senior Trevor Swartz sends in the corner. But, as soon as the ball gets to junior Jordan Kleyn, the last Notre Dame defender, to the right of Rennicks, steps up just slightly to be in front of Rennicks. So, when the ball deflects off Kleyn and Rennicks makes contact, he is offsides.

Arguments will be made that there is no such thing as offsides on a corner kick, and that’s true. A player can be offsides when the ball is sent in, and if they are the first one to touch it then it’s a goal. Rennicks wasn’t the first one. As soon as the ball hits off Kleyn, the offsides rule is immediately effective. 

It’s a little unclear if the ball does in fact hit off of Kleyn or if it hits a Notre Dame player. If it hits the Notre Dame player, which may have been the referee’s thinking, then it’s a goal. But, the stat sheet credits Kleyn with an assist, which implies he did indeed touch it. 

It poses the question of whether or not replay should be initiated into collegiate soccer. Notre Dame fans probably feel strongly in favor of replay now. The MLS introduced VAR, Video Assistant Referee, in 2017. It’s becoming more and more of a debate whether soccer needs it, and this adds to that question. 

With all the new tools available today, such as goal line cameras, calls as controversial as this one could be sorted out. 

Anyone who watches basketball or football can argue those sentiments, and they have a point. Even with the ability to go back and look at plays, referees still get calls wrong. 

The simple fact of the matter is referees are just like us, and they make mistakes. Tuesday night, they made a mistake. 

That’s not to say IU didn’t deserve the victory. The Hoosiers fought valiantly to get back into the game and force overtime. The goal could have been called back and the Hoosiers still could have won the game. 

IU put itself in a position to win, it created that corner kick to cause havoc in the box. 

Rennicks was just in the right place at the right time, and in Notre Dame’s eyes, the referee made the wrong call at the wrong time. 

A win is a win, and IU is leaving South Bend with a victory — offsides or not. 

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