PSU Blown Fair Catch on Kickoff--Why 30 Yard Line?

Submitted by JamieH on November 5th, 2018 at 12:35 PM

Ok, so it was obvious from the replay that Penn State didn't actually call for a fair catch on that one kickoff--the guy was just pointing at his blockers.  That kind of incompetence from Big Ten officials doesn't surprise me anymore--I just expect them to outright blow calls all the time, and in the grand scheme of things, making up a fair catch that didn't actually occur is only about a 3 or 4 on the "what the f*** are you looking at???" scale.

But did anyone catch why they then put the ball at the 30?  Fair catches on kickoffs are put at the 25.  Was there a 5 yard penalty on us that TV didn't talk about?  Were we offsides or something?

Just curious if anyone understood what went down there, because that whole sequence was really confusing.  Luckily it was 100% unimportant to the game, as was the "hey every official on the field thinks this was targeting, and if it was a Michigan defender it would definitely be targeting, so of course we will reverse it."  



November 5th, 2018 at 12:40 PM ^

Cool, ok, I missed the offsides penalty.  I was really hoping there was an actual reason for it and it wasn't just another total screw up.  

Still can't believe they called that a fair catch.  It wasn't even close to being a fair catch signal.


November 5th, 2018 at 12:45 PM ^

I've seen similar called before. I'm pretty sure returners are taught not to make any arm motions that could be even remotely mistaken for a fair catch.

The fair catch wave isn't for the refs, its for the players sprinting down the field fighting off blocks. You can't expect them to differentiate between a fair catch wave and pointing downfield. Especially when teams might be trying to replicate the fake fair catch we saw earlier in the year...

Perkis-Size Me

November 5th, 2018 at 12:43 PM ^

I'm honestly more curious why in the world Franklin opted to let Michigan re-kick after we booted the ball out of bounds towards the end of the game. Instead of getting to start at the 35, you get a touchback (I believe it was a touchback) and cost your team 15 yards. 

Of course by that point, it didn't matter with the game well in hand. But I really have to wonder what the hell Franklin was thinking. If it was a tight ball game and Penn State was within a score or two, that 15 yards could've been the difference between a win and a loss. 


November 5th, 2018 at 12:46 PM ^

Jimmy F is a terrible coach.  However, this was actually a good decision on his part -- KJ Hamler is an electric return guy, and Michigan's cover team had just run a 50-yard wind sprint.  You saw PSU's offense.  Do you really think 15 yards was going to matter?  Their best shot was to get Hamler in space and let him make somebody miss, and their best chance to do that was on special teams.


November 5th, 2018 at 12:46 PM ^

Wasn't a touchback, I think that was the one where Mason squashed Hamler into a pancake around the 22 or so.  Point remains though.  Actually, the thinking behind that is understandable - we're getting our asses kicked so let's see if we can get our star return man to give us a spark.  I point and laugh at Franklin for the outcome, but it's a defensible choice.


November 5th, 2018 at 1:04 PM ^

A lot of people have already answered this but I would add that Hamler in quite a few games has really put a spark in the Penn State offense with some electric returns. (I know already covered.) Michigan was kicking into the wind, they had just sprinted down the field so they are going to be a bit tired and they are backed up a couple of more yards. 

Franklin makes a bunch of head scratching decisions but being down as Penn State was, I saw nothing wrong with giving Hamler another chance to try and get a big return and generate some momentum. 


November 5th, 2018 at 1:15 PM ^

By the same reasoning, on the phantom fair catch play PSU could have made Michigan rekick if they really wanted a return. Yeah it was a blown call, but Penn State said (at that point in the game), thanks but we'll keep the fair catch.

I'm surprised no team has gone with the fair catch every kickoff approach. If you don't have the best return threat in your program's history, why not avoid injury and take the free 25 yards. I've seen plenty of KO returns tackled short of the 25, and plenty more moved inside the 25 on a penalty on the return team, and a few turnovers.


November 5th, 2018 at 12:44 PM ^

It should have been offsetting penalties and a re-kick, because he ran with the ball after the "fair catch."  (There's no way in hell that was a fair catch signal).

Also, I didn't see targeting on that play.  On replay, it looked like a clean, shoulder-to-shoulder hit.  I didn't see any contact at all with the helmet.  It looked really bad live because of the way DPJ's head flew back -- hence every official in the vicinity flagging it -- but If a Michigan defender made that play, we'd be furious if it got upheld.


November 5th, 2018 at 3:13 PM ^

If the launching wasn't there, I'd agree with this.  However, when you add the launching to the defenseless player, the contact to the head means targeting to me...even if it's not as forceable as the shoulder contact.  He launched himself directly into the shoulder/head area and made helmet to helmet contact...that was targeting.


November 5th, 2018 at 7:37 PM ^

Yeah that was not targeting. Maybe a hit against a defenseless receiver but not targeting because it was a hit with the shoulder to the shoulder. You could see that on the replays at the stadium.


Regarding the fair catch - live from the stands it looked like a mix between pointing and fair catch, so I understood the confusion (but have not seen the replay).

Section 1.8

November 5th, 2018 at 12:45 PM ^

Right; it was the offside penalty on Mason.

Did the tv guys say (and did video show) that the kick receiver didn't call for a fair catch?  Because as soon as he started running, I started screaming that he can't run, he called for a fair catch.  I thought it was clear.  But I didn't see any replay.  I don't even recall the Stadium video boards showing it.

Because shortly after that, what we laughed about even harder was Bozo Franklin's decision to re-kick resulting in what turned out to be a 3-and-out  for PSU from well inside their own 30.  They should have taken the ball, and the penalty, and punted on first down.  And then go out the tunnel to the team buses which were probably nice and warm.




November 5th, 2018 at 12:50 PM ^

The receiver absolutely did NOT call for a fair catch.  He pointed at his blockers that he was going to return the ball to the right, telling them to set up their blocks to go that way.  That is all.  He didn't make anything close to the "hand waving over head" fair catch motion.  

However, if an official was looking out of their peripheral vision or something, they might have seen him waving his hand and gotten confused I guess.  

Section 1.8

November 5th, 2018 at 4:31 PM ^

No argument from me; I thought it was clear.  And in my full-field viewing, it looked as though the refs made the call immediately and without question.  They were whistling the play dead even as the returner started to run.

It is always an interesting topic for me, how susceptible a television audience is, to suggestion by the announcers.



November 5th, 2018 at 1:23 PM ^

the rules say:


ARTICLE 3. An invalid signal is any waving signal by a player of Team B:

a. That does not meet the requirements of Article 2 (above); or

b. That is given after a scrimmage kick is caught beyond the neutral zone, strikes the ground or touches another player beyond the neutral zone (A.R. 6-5-3-III-V); or

c. That is given after a free kick is caught, strikes the ground or touches another player. [Exception: Rule 6-4-1-f]

And if it is an Invalid Signal:

A player of the receiving team within the boundary lines attempting to catch a kick, and so located that he could have caught a free kick or a scrimmage kick that is beyond the neutral zone, must be given an unimpeded opportunity to catch the kick (A.R. 6-3-1-III, A.R. 6-4-1-V, VI and IX).

ARTICLE 3. a. A catch after an invalid signal is not a fair catch, and the ball is dead where caught or recovered. If the signal follows a catch or recovery, the ball is dead when the signal is first given (A.R. 6-5-1-I).

No Advance ARTICLE 2. No Team B player shall carry a caught or recovered ball more than two steps in any direction after any Team B player gives a valid or invalid fair catch signal (A.R. 6-5-2-I-III). PENALTY—Dead-ball foul. Five yards from the succeeding spot [S7 and S21]

No Tackling ARTICLE 5. No player of the kicking team shall tackle or block an opponent who has completed a fair catch. Only the player making a fair catch signal has this protection (A.R.6-5-5-I and III). PENALTY—Dead-ball foul. Receiving team’s ball 15 yards from the succeeding spot [S7 and S38].


he raised his hand above his waist -- to me this is an invalid signal but any hand waving/pointing that high could easily be construed by a defended as a fair catch.  I remember a couple years ago Jabrill Peppers did this as well and they blew it dead

Greg McMurtry

November 5th, 2018 at 12:46 PM ^

“ A valid or invalid fair catch signal deprives the receiving team of the opportunity to advance the ball.” 

So, if you do anything that looks similar to a fair catch signal in NCAA FB it’s ruled dead.


November 5th, 2018 at 3:20 PM ^

This really isn't that difficult to understand.  There is no "redefining", but the idea that you can't expect a defender running full speed to determine if the hand is being waved to point out blockers or to call a fair catch. Pretty simple...the return team needs to understand their blocking assignments prior to the play or the returner can point them out, after he catches the football.


November 5th, 2018 at 12:47 PM ^

It was a ‘weak’ fake fair catch signal, but Hamler should know better. You don’t approach that line and give them wiggle room to blow it dead. 


November 5th, 2018 at 12:49 PM ^

We were called for offsides. The refs made a mess of that for sure though. The PSU returner did not signal for a fair catch, he was pointing to his blockers. But, if the refs did think that he signaled for a fair catch then he should have been penalized for running with the ball after a fair catch signal. 


November 5th, 2018 at 12:50 PM ^

Live in the stadium it looked to me like a fair catch signal.  Only after watching it again on replay yesterday did I see that he was pointing to his blockers.  Even then it looked like he got his hand up above his shoulders, so I understood why the referees interpreted it that way.


November 5th, 2018 at 12:50 PM ^

"During a free kick, if a Team B receiver gives any waving signal that does not meet all of the requirements of a valid fair catch signal, and subsequently catches the ball behind the B-25 yard line the ball belongs to Team B at its own 25-yard line"


November 5th, 2018 at 1:00 PM ^

That's not at all what the post says. It pretty clearly lays out the "NOT a fair catch signal, but still a waving motion" scenario at a certain point on the field.

Practically, though, it means that returners should be more careful. Hamler, IIRC, DID in fact shake his hand around. Which, by the barely-competent B1G officials, could have been enough for them to rob the guy of a return. 


November 5th, 2018 at 12:53 PM ^

Going to have to disagree with you. Refs didn't blow the call but made a judgement call that is probably what it should be.


Returners can't have their hands above their shoulders, otherwise it can be interpreted as a fair catch. PSU guy did point but did it as shoulder level. With fake plays coming from it and defenses being trained to just lay them out, it will probably be revisited this off-season that any arm movement will be interpreted as a fair catch and might even have talked about it internally among officals and coaches. 


November 5th, 2018 at 12:57 PM ^

I mean, I get it that they don't want people giving fake fair catch signals and then running with the ball.  But if that is a fair catch signal, then you are going to have to say that basically anything where you raise your hands above your waist and extend your hand is a fair catch signal.   Which is FINE, but then just do that.  


What is the point of defining a "valid" fair catch signal if you don't even care if people give it?


November 5th, 2018 at 1:01 PM ^

I thought they announced that the kicking team was offsides? This wasn't the only brutal call. As far as I know, QBs are marked where they INITIATE their slide, not where their knee first hits. They also mentioned several times that DPJ was a defenseless receiver.  Then when they make the call, they completely ignore that fact. The targeting rule has just become whatever they have to say to explain the call made, completely arbitrary. 

Stuck in Utah

November 5th, 2018 at 1:05 PM ^

Below are the rules for what constitutes a valid signal for a fair catch. I have no idea how the ref made that call.

Valid Signal

ARTICLE 2.A valid signal is a signal given by a player of Team B who has obviously signaled his intention by extending one hand only clearly above his head and waving that hand from side to side of his body more than once.

Invalid Signal

ARTICLE 3. An invalid signal is any waving signal by a player of Team B: a. That does not meet the requirements of Article 2 (above); or b. That is given after a scrimmage kick is caught beyond the neutral zone, strikes the ground or touches another player beyond the neutral zone (A.R. 6-5-3-III-V); or c. That is given after a free kick is caught, strikes the ground or touches another player. [Exception: Rule 6-4-1-f ]


November 5th, 2018 at 2:36 PM ^

As a returner you are taught or should be taught you can't make any hand gestures at all unless you intend to fair catch.  That is in the details of good coaching.  Officials are looking for any hand motion above the stomach area.


The 5 yard penalty was for being offsides on the kick, PSU chose to tack it on.  Which is rather funny considering they had already tried to make us kick it again earlier.