Roundtree: Penalty or not?

Submitted by Swayze Howell Sheen on September 2nd, 2012 at 3:07 PM

Hello all,

There was a nice discussion on some other thread about whether there should have been a penalty called when Roundtree was pushed out of bounds just prior to an interception by some Alabama defender. I bring it up here as I am just curious if there are any "real" referees out there who know the rules well enough to judge the play.

Let us assume (for the sake of argument) that the ball was NOT in the air, and therefore rule out pass interference.

It is pretty clear from the rulebook that other contact IS legal, i.e., there is no NFL-like non-contact rule after five yards. Thus, a defender can often block (above the waist) a receiver who is running out there.

However, I contend that there still should have been a penalty on the play. This is from my read of what I think is a relevant rule (Rule 9, Section 3, Article 4, Part c):

"Defensive players may ward off or legally block an eligible pass receiver until that player occupies the same yard line as the defender or until the opponent could not possibly block him. Continuous contact is illegal."

I believe the key passage is that you can ward off or legally block a pass receiver "until that player occupies the same yard line as the defender". Roundtree was clearly even with or slightly beyond the defender.

But, I don't really know the rules very well. So, refs out there, should a penatly have been called?

(as an attempt to ward off certain comments which may arise, yes, Michigan still would have lost by a lot to a much better team regardless of this call)





September 2nd, 2012 at 10:18 PM ^

Everyone keeps forgetting my favorite- where we get called for holding because the guy being "held" was yanking down on our RB's face mask. Off-setting at worst, but looking at that player they only saw one penalty.


September 3rd, 2012 at 1:54 AM ^

I am going to agree that this play in no way affected the outcome of the game, but in my opinion, based on the rule book and the intent of the rules, this was a penalty.  It may not have been PI, but there appears to be a contact interference penalty that governs this.  It can be found in the Rule 9 - Conduct of Players and Others Subject to the Rules.  Specifically, the section that outlines what a defensive player can and can not do with his hands or arms is governed by Section 9.4 of the rule book, amazingly called Use of Hands or Arms by the Defense.  Please see below.  I am only including the parts that seem to apply to this case.

Use of Hands or Arms by Defense


b. Defensive players may not use hands and arms to tackle, hold or otherwise
illegally obstruct an opponent other than a runner.

Seeing as Roundtree did not have the ball, he therefore could not be construed as the runner.  Clearly the contact made by the corner was meant to obstruct Roundtree's path, making it questionable if not illegal contact.

c. Defensive players may use hands and arms to push, pull, ward off or lift
offensive players obviously attempting to block them. Defensive players
may ward off or legally block an eligible pass receiver until that player
occupies the same yard line as the defender or until the opponent could not
possibly block him. Continuous contact is illegal (A.R. 9-3-4-I and II).

The intent of this section is meant to recognize that an eligible pass receiver may be used as a blocker and that a defensive player may treat them as a potential blocker until such a time they are no longer a threat to block the defensive player.  Since Roundtree occupied the same yard line as the defender and was attempting to get around said defender, he was in no way a threat to block him.  This also appears to indicate that the contact was questionable and illegal contact.

e. When a legal forward pass crosses the neutral zone during a forward-pass
play and a contact foul that is not pass interference is committed beyond the
neutral zone, the enforcement spot is the previous spot. This includes Rule
9-3-4-c (A.R. 7-3-9-I and A.R. 9-3-4-I and II)

This portion clearly defines that there are potential contact violations a defender may make beyond the neutral zone that are not pass interference, but still considered illegal contact.  Based on this, the ball does not need to be in the air to make an illegal contact ruling.


Based on video evidence, it is clear that Roundtree's route was obstructed by the defender at a time when the rules seem to indicate it is not permitted.  Roundtree had established himself at the same yard line as the defender, the defender is not allowed to obstruct an opponent other than a runner unless they are a threat as a blocker, and the rules seem to indicate that a defensive illegal contact foul may occur without the need for a pass interference call.

It was a penalty.

*Please keep in mind that I am in no way an expert on this topic.  Just a man with a couple beers in him that thought it would be interesting to read the NCAA rule book and offer his two cents.  Since two cents is not worth that much these days, this write-up probably is'nt either.


September 3rd, 2012 at 10:10 AM ^

Not only does the ref witness the blatant PI and not throw a flag, what really blows my mind is that he threw his hat.  This means the WR is ineligible to come back in and catch the ball.  But if a player is forced out he should be able to re-establish himself in bounds and catch the ball. 


September 3rd, 2012 at 1:01 PM ^

If watch the video closely, you can see immediately after Millner pushes Roundtree out he looks back and sees the ball coming and continues to run down field to make the catch. He doesn't hesitate at all. The ball was in the air when he pushed him out, but if the ref is watching Roundtree go out he can't see the ball being thrown. So, it was a missed penalty.