PROVO — Most home fans typically ride officiating crews for calls that go against their team, although BYU fans may have been riding one particular official a bit more than usual during the Cougars' 71-66 win over Saint Mary's on Thursday.
Bill Vinovich was in town to officiate Thursday's game, a name that may ring familiar with fans of NFL football and a name that won't soon be forgotten by heart-broken fans of the New Orleans Saints.
Vinovich headed the officiating crew that missed a blatant pass interference call against the Los Angeles Rams late in last Sunday's NFC championship game against the Saints. Several believe it may have been one of the worst missed calls in NFL history, with Vinovich, and his curt reponses to the postgame pool interview receiving a lot of scrutiny.
"It's a judgment call by the officials," Vinovich told the media following the game where the Rams edged out the Saints 26-23 in overtime. "I personally have not seen the play."
Vinovich made several calls on Thursday that fans disagreed with, and perhaps didn't make some that BYU fans thought should have been made, although there was nothing close to the call missed in the NFC championship game.
The BYU student section (the ROC) did its best to ride Vinovich throughout the game, chanting the notorious official's name after he made a call on several occasions. One of the signs at the Marriott Center read, "Bill, don't screw these Saints."
The chants of, "Bill! Bill! Bill!" were perhaps heard loudest when a call of a TJ Haws turnover early in the first half was correctly reversed in favor of the Cougars.
BAXTER PLAYS BIG: BYU freshman Gavin Baxter received the minutes a lot of fans feel he's been warranted in Thursday's game, and responded as most would have hoped. The Timpview product made a big impact in the first half, helping spur a key 14-2 run by the Cougars while contributing four first-half points, a block and a couple of rebounds in his just over 10 minutes played.25 comments on this story
The 6-foot-9 forward finished out the first half, with BYU entering the break up 33-26, and was called on to start the second. Overall, Baxter logged 28 minutes played, 10 points and five rebounds, while adding a big dunk with about a minute and a half left that put the Cougars up 67-60 and all but sealed the win.
According to BYU coach Dave Rose Baxter has grown more comfortable — particularly on the offensive end, allowing him to log more minutes.
"The most important thing now is that we have him in the right spot making plays," Rose said. "He's consistently feeling very comfortable with how we do things and it's really helping."