OT (gray area): Rules Questions

Submitted by Two Hearted Ale on November 14th, 2011 at 12:22 PM

1)  On a fake field goal when the ball is snapped to the holder whose knee is on the ground, why is the play not blown dead at that point?

2)  On a silent snap count when the quarterback pumps his fist, why isn't false start called?  Oregon's QB comes to mind here.  He almost hits the ground with his fist he pumps it so vigorously.



November 14th, 2011 at 12:25 PM ^

The holder is an exception written into the rule.  It used to be that a fake had to start with the holder's knee slightly off the ground (at least I think I remember that) which obviously gave it away.

I don't know about the hand motion.


November 14th, 2011 at 12:37 PM ^


From the 2011 NCAA rulebook:



SECTION 6. Deliberate Dead-Ball Advance

Deliberately advancing a dead ball is an attempt by a player to advance the

ball after any part of his person, other than a hand or foot, has touched the

ground or after the ball has been declared dead by rule (Exception: Rule 4-1-

3-b Exception).

Rule 4-1-3-b (Exception), Clarifies that holder on

a kick play may have his knee on the ground,

provided a kicker is lined up in kicking position

at the snap. 





November 14th, 2011 at 12:38 PM ^

that doesn't really answer the question regarding a fake field goal.  If it is a fake, it is not "a kicking play," thus, it would not seem to fit within the exception.  Could the OP have stumbled on to a game changer.  Fake field goals prohibited!!


November 14th, 2011 at 12:52 PM ^

Dug this up, seems they went the "ambigious is best if you want to define it later in context" route. Don't know if the place holder technically has possession or not...

SECTION 30. Play Classification

Free Kick Play
ARTICLE 2. A free kick play is the interval from the time the ball is legally kicked 
until it comes into player possession or is declared dead by rule. 
Scrimmage Kick Play
ARTICLE 3. A scrimmage kick play is the interval between the snap and when a 
scrimmage kick comes into player possession or the ball is declared dead by rule.


November 14th, 2011 at 12:50 PM ^

I can chime in with a good working knowledge of NCAA rules writing, albeit not in football. As living documents, rule books are only as clear as their latest revision. Every change, addition or deletion creates a domino effect with cross-referenced rules in other sections. How (and when, usually) they are edited to reflect change elsewhere is an inconsistent, tedious process.


November 14th, 2011 at 1:04 PM ^

Which reads:

ARTICLE 3. A live ball becomes dead and an official shall sound his whistle or declare it dead:


b. When any part of the ball carrier’s body, except his hand or foot, touches the ground or when the ball carrier is tackled or otherwise falls and loses possession of the ball as he contacts the ground with any part of his body, except his hand or foot [Exception: The ball remains alive when an offensive player has simulated a kick or is in position to kick the ball held for a place kick by a teammate. The ball may be kicked, passed or advanced by rule]


The exception clearly applies whenever a player is in position to kick, whether or not the kick actually takes place.



November 14th, 2011 at 12:38 PM ^

There seem to be some exceptions made for certain movements not being false starts.
<br>Those QB movements, centers moving their heads up and down, offensive lineman and pointing at defenders.
<br>It would be interestingto see what the actual rules are though.


November 14th, 2011 at 12:40 PM ^

ARTICLE 2. a. Shift. After a huddle (Rule 2-14-1) or shift (Rule 2-22-1)

and before the snap, all Team A players must come to an absolute stop and

remain stationary in their positions for at least one full second before the ball

is snapped, without movement of the feet, body, head or arms (A.R. 7-1-2-I).

b. False Start. Each of the following is a false start by Team A if it occurs prior

to the snap after the ball is ready for play and all players are in scrimmage


1. Any movement by one or more players that simulates the start of a play.

2. The snapper moving to another position.

3. A restricted lineman (Rule 2-27-4) moving his hand(s) or making any

quick movement. [Exception: It is not a false start if a Team A lineman

immediately reacts when threatened by a Team B player in the neutral

zone (Rule 7-1-5-a-2) (A.R. 7-1-3-V)].

4. An offensive player making any quick, jerky movement before the snap,

including but not limited to:

(a) A lineman moving his foot, shoulder, arm, body or head in a quick,

jerky motion in any direction.

(b) The snapper shifting or moving the ball, moving his thumb or

fingers, flexing his elbows, jerking his head, or dipping his shoulders

or buttocks.

(c) The quarterback making any quick, jerky movement that simulates

the beginning of a play.

(d) A back simulating receiving the ball by making any quick, jerky

movement that simulates the beginning of a play.

Rule 7 / Snapping and Passing the Ball FR-69

5. The offensive team never coming to a one-second stop prior to the snap

after the ball is ready for play (A.R. 7-1-2-IV).


November 14th, 2011 at 12:49 PM ^

However, the rules are almost never enforced exactly as written, in any sport. It is all about context, and I believe referees are instructed to use judgement when making calls. The one-second set seems like it is always only a one count, probably half a second or less. Also, players are always moving a little before the snap, including the center, guards and QB, but as long as it doesn't materially affect the play, it is rarely called. 

At the end of the Iowa-MSU game last weekend, Iowa was called for Illegal Procedure for snapping before waiting a second, but it was the first time I have ever seen that penalty called. 


November 14th, 2011 at 12:40 PM ^

Since we are discussing rule minutia, I learned an interesting rule addendum during the Arizona State/Washington State game over the weekend. You know how if the quarterback rolls out of the pocket and gets the ball past the line of scrimmage, even if there is no receiver in the area, it negates intentional grounding rule? Apparently, that exemption from intentional grounding only applies to the player who takes the snap from the center. If a HB option is called (or our double diamond of death formation) and someone other than the person lined up as the quarterback does the same thing, it's still intentional grounding. Maybe I'm just the last person to discover this, idk.


November 14th, 2011 at 12:47 PM ^

-The knee on the ground deal by the holder is a rule for a field goal play.  No other way to explain that.  I believe at one point, if it was a fake field goal, the knee had to be slightly off the ground, but I think that has long since been changed because it so clearly gave away the team's intentions.

-As for the QB in shotgun, if he's moving his hands, that's fine.  Hands and arms don't denote a shift in position, the feet determine that.  As for when he picks up his foot in shotgun, that's clearly not considered a shift either as long as it is put back down in the same spot.  Lastly, as long as no other player in the backfield is moving at the same time, the quarterback can almost move around as freely as he wants and it's considered a legal motion/shift as long as he gets set again before the snap.


November 14th, 2011 at 12:51 PM ^

I don't have the rule book in front of me right now, but I can help with both of these:

(1) The exception does apply to any player lined up as the holder in an 'obvious place kick formation' or words to that effect.

(2) The snap signal doesn't really 'simulate the start of the play,' so it is permitted.  If the quarterback's snap signal consisted of a quick turn of the shoulders and a step to the right, or something like that, that would be illegal procedure.  Things like waving the arm downward, clapping the hands or stomping the foot are not really football moves, so they aren't considered simulating the start of the play.


November 14th, 2011 at 1:00 PM ^

I haven't looked at the actual rule for this, but believe intentional grounding is considered when it's done to avoid a sack, which is not a reason why a QB would spike the ball...  I'm sure there's a more thorough explanation out there for this, but that's atleast how I understand the rules.


November 14th, 2011 at 1:02 PM ^

Another thing that has a specific exception.  If the QB lines up under center with the clock ticking and immediately spikes the ball after the snap, it's permitted.

The reasoning is that the purpose of the intentional grounding rule is to punish the team if the QB throws an incomplete pass to avoid a loss of yardage.  If the QB does it in that specific situation, it's clear that he's not doing it to avoid a yardage loss, he's doing it to stop the clock.