Rules Understanding: Bush Push vs. Forcier Push

Submitted by tjyoung on July 20th, 2010 at 10:26 PM

Everybody always brings up how the "Bush Push" (where Reggie pushed Matt Leinart into the endzone to beat ND) was illegal.  I'm trying to understand what makes a push illegal.  Are all pushes to help your player illegal?  If so, I'm trying to understand why I haven't heard more buzz from Indiana fans about the play where two of our OL pushed Forcier into the endzone for the 2pt conversion last year.

Just looking for some knowledgable insight as to what is/isn't legal for "pushing".

Here are the videos of the pushes

Forcier: @ 7:10

Bush: (not sure of exact time)


Zone Left

July 20th, 2010 at 10:31 PM ^

They're all illegal. However, it's just about as rare as a penalty for a sideline infraction. Of course, that's partially due to the "Get Back Coach."


July 21st, 2010 at 12:39 AM ^

My understanding is that, typically, there is a difference in the way the refs interpret a rule and the way a rule is written (on every single running play offensive linemen push the running back forward, while the defense tries to push him backwards, and the refs spot it either where he goes down, or where they blow the whistle). As an athlete, you don't give a fuck about the rules in situations akin to the "Bush push." You are just doing everything in your power to win the game or get that extra yard. 


July 20th, 2010 at 10:34 PM ^

It appeared to me that the defensive player did more dragging than the Olineman did pushing to get Forcier in, at least from the replay angle.


July 20th, 2010 at 10:45 PM ^

What many forget is it is NOT illegal to push a would-be tackler off the runner. So, not only do we have the vagarities of the “current interpretation”, we also have the subjective issues of whether the fellow offensive player is pushing the runner or pushing the tackler. Sometimes it is clear. Other times, particularly in a scrum, it’s not so clear.

Maybe Forcier wasn't exactly pushed as much as the linemen tried to push tacklers off of Forcier?


July 20th, 2010 at 10:59 PM ^

I am pretty sure it was a rule that was changed after the ND game....

At the time of the bush push though it had to do with who was pushing the QB and where the line of scrimmage was in relation to the ball carrier, if I am not mistaken.


July 20th, 2010 at 11:11 PM ^

..on purpose.  An example of this is offensive holding, college linemen are taught to hold from day one.  During my first position meeting as a college freshmen, the coach made it clear that you need to hold on every play, but if you ever cost the offense 10 yards then the shit was going to fly.  So it was basically cheat, but don't get caught.  Another rule that is often broken is offsides on kickoffs.  There is usually atleast 1 person across the line before the kicker. 


July 20th, 2010 at 11:24 PM ^

apparently the least called penalty in college football is "assisting the runner." the trivia master referenced the bush push as an example of the penalty. this was at a bar in rural east georgia so i hope he was right or i'm going back for my 50 bucks.


July 21st, 2010 at 12:35 AM ^

The NFHS rules(which apply to all levels of football from the high school level down) states that "An offensive player shall not push, pull, or lift the runner to assist his forward progress". Along with that the runner is prohibited from grasping a teammate in an attempt to assist his forward progress, this offense would result in a 10 yard Illegal use of hands penalty.

In the case of the Forcier push, I did not see anything that could have been interpreted as assisting the runner. #52 Steve Schilling, was the closest to committing a penalty but when you watch it he is very careful about stopping fully and making a blocking sort of gesture with his arms. He extends his arms as if to push but he is not intentionally pushing Forcier in the endzone, he is pushing his defender backwards or at least trying to.

In the case of the Bush Push, Reggie clearly drives his shoulders and feet into Leinart and also clearly extends his arms to assist the runner. In that case I dont think it is any question that it was an illegal act. Unfortunately the officials are not afforded the luxury of the camera angles we fans get and therefore it is possible for human error to occure.

The head linesman should have seen the penalty and made the call but he didnt and the play will forever stand as an example of how even the best officials get it wrong sometimes. I know fans dont like to hear that but it is just the nature of any game that human error will effect the outcome from time to time.


July 21st, 2010 at 8:52 AM ^

The NCAA Rules, which apply to both USC and Michigan state:

Interfereing for of Helping the Ball Carrier

ARTICLE 2. a. The ball carrier or passer may use his hand or arm to ward off or push opponents

b.  The ball carrier shall not grasp a teammate; and no other player of his team shall grasp, pull, push, lift or charge into him to assist him in forward progress. (emphasis added)

c.  Teammates of the ball carrier or passer may interfere for him by blocking but shall not use interlocked interference by grasping or encircling one another in any matter while contacting an opponent.

PENALTY - Five yards pg. 129


The official must interpret the intent of the blocking player.  If he is in contact with the ball carrier in order to assist him in forward progress, then its a violation of the rule.  With that being said, I think this rule has been on the books for a long time and I honestly cannot recall an instance when I've seen this called. 

Yes, I really just wasted 30 minutes looking this up solely to keep me from having to study for the bar.  So thank you tjyoung 


July 21st, 2010 at 10:21 AM ^

If there's a reasonable case to be made that the blocker is trying to push defenders off the ballcarrier, or block defenders when the ballcarrier happens to be in the way, its not going to be called.


July 21st, 2010 at 4:37 PM ^

Once da Bears' William Perry was lead blocking for Payton, payton hit the line and bounced back. The Fridge picked him up and threw him over the line into the endzone. This isn't legal. Same way that a fullback can't take a knee and have a running back jump off his back over the line (like how 5'11'' guys like me can dunk)

And yes, William Perry could throw Walter Payton


July 21st, 2010 at 3:43 PM ^

The rule has always been on the books and by the rule both plays you linked could be penalties. However, it is almost never called. While it happens all the time, the Bush Push was a pretty egregious example of it. Much more so than the Tate clip. I feel for ND fans losing that way but they just aren't ever going to call that. 

I have no idea if the rule had some purpose back in the day or if exists to stop  guys from being carried by their teammeates or what.


July 21st, 2010 at 4:23 PM ^

I've heard the rule explained before as "you can push a pile, but you can't push a player (meaning the ball carrier) ".

Now obviously, it's impossible to push a pile without also pushing a player, and more often than not at least one of the offensive players pushing the pile will have his hands directly on the ball carrier.

I think the difference lies in the number of defensive players who are in contact with the ball carrier when he (in the context of a TD) crosses the goal line. If there's only 1 defensive player in contact with the ball carrier, then the defensive player is thought to have the ball carrier 1-on-1, and if another offensive player pushes the ball carrier over the goal line at that point, this would constitute "assisting the runner", which is supposed to be illegal.

On the Forcier play, there were 2 IND players in contact with him who momentarily stopped his progress just before he crossed the goal line, so when Schilling and the other lineman pushed him over the goal line, they were "pushing a pile", which is legal (or at least permitted by the refs in practice).

On the Bush play, although Leinart was in the middle of a pile just before the touchdown, he broke free from the pile and there was only 1 ND player making a play on him when Bush pushed him over the goal line, which is supposed to constitute "assisting the runner" and is the reason why Domers were upset about it.

But as people have mentioned, it rarely gets enforced which makes it a bullshit rule since no one is 100% sure what type of conduct violates it. It gives the refs too much discretion and doesn’t put the players on fair notice of when they’re going to be called for it.


July 21st, 2010 at 4:26 PM ^

There's no "pile" rule.  That sounds like the kind of coach speak that us officials hate because it leads to confusion on rules *SIDE NOTE BELOW).

Read the rule above.  The "helper" must be making contact with the ball carrier in some sense.  You cannot determine if the "helper" really made contact with the defender or with the ball carrier in the Forcier clip.  In order for a flag to be thrown, it should be pretty clear.  If I can't clearly determine it on several replays, then how can I saw the helper was assisting the ball carrier and not blocking a defender?

*Aside: True or false - A basketball player shoots a 8 foot jumpshot.  The ball does not touch the rim, backboard, or net and the shooter catches the shot.  This is a violation.  FALSE!  If it was a shot, the shooter may get the ball so long as the official judges it to be an intentional try for goal.  I cannot count how many times I've gotten into arguments about this playing pick up.  I blame idiot TV announcers, bad high school officials, and oblivious high school coaches.

Geoff Pritchard

August 9th, 2011 at 2:57 PM ^

I played FB for 10 seasons and coached for almost 20 more and have seen a number of occasions where "aiding the runner" was in effect and an obvious violation yet I saw it enforced only once - when I was in Pop Warner FB at age 11. They were trying to teach kids "the game".  Later, at the HS level I was told  more than once by officials, including the "white hats", that they will NEVER EVER call that penalty.  Huh?  Then get it out of the rule books.  I was speechless that these guys were saying they were unwilling to enforce an obvious violation of a rule they admit was in the book.  They probably learned from watching the big boys on TV.