American College Football Rules Questions & Answers

If you are new to American Football and have a question about the rules, send your question to dwilson@engr.wisc.edu. [I'm just a fan: I've never played the game.] For an introduction to the rules, click here. For advanced questions, see Curt Johnson's Answers for Coaches or join the NCAA rules discussion group.

To find an answer, use "Find in Page..." on the Edit menu to look for a key word.

Question: How do you tell who is on offense and defense?

Answer: One of the players (the center on the offense) puts his hands on the ball before the play starts. When the play starts, the center snaps the ball back between his legs to the quarterback. Players wearing the same uniform as the center and quarterback are on offense; players wearing the other uniforms are on defense.

Question: What is the difference between tackle and touch football?

Answer: In touch football, the ball carrier has to stop once touched by a defender. In tackle football the ball carrier doesn't stop until he is forced to stop or to put a knee or back on the ground. In a tackle, a defender grabs the ball carrier and forces him to do that.

Question: Could you tell me what it means when someone says "1st and 10" or "2nd and 2", etc. I know the first number is the play they're on, but how do they determine the second number.

Answer: The second number is the number of yards the team has to go to get another first down. That point is 10 yards past where the current set of downs started. If the team started the current set of downs within 10 yards of the opponents' goal line, the announcer says "... and goal" since a new first down is impossible.

Question: How do you read the standings in the newspaper? I understand W L and T but what is a PCT, PF, and a PA on the standing chart?

Answer: PCT = % of games won. PF = points for = points scored by the team. PA = points against = points scored by the team's opponents. My standings don't have a PCT column; I use Pts instead of PF and Opp instead of PA.

Question: What is a turn over?

Answer: When turn overs are counted, people normally include just fumbles recovered and interceptions made by the defense even though the ball is also turned over to the other team after an unsuccessful 4th down play or a missed field goal.

Question: What happens after the kick off to begin play? Does the other team run it back and where they are tackled is where they have a first down?

Answer: Yes.

Question: If a receiver gets the ball on the 40 yard line, and he's pushed back by a defensive player to the 35 yard line before the play ends, does the the offensive team start the next down from the 40 or the 35 yard line?

Answer: The offensive team is given its forward progress to the 40 yard line. If the receiver had run back to the 35 yard line trying to avoid the defensive player, the offensive team would start the next down at the 35 yard line.

Question: Can you please tell me what a walk-on kicker is? What are their roles? Is it true they don't get hit (as in tackled) very much?

Answer: Most of the young men you see playing Div. I football have scholarships. That is, the school is paying for their tuition, books, room and food. However, each school has a limited number of scholarships they are allowed to grant to football players. Additional young men who volunteer to play without a scholarship are called walk-on players. Thus, walk-on players are not necessarily kickers.

Kickers do get tackled a lot less than other players. Only if the kick is blocked can the kicker be tackled. A kick is blocked if a defensive player gets in fast enough to stop the ball. If the kicker is tackled when the kick is not blocked, there is a penalty because it is very easy to injure a kicker by tackling him while his leg is extended.

Question: On a punt, is there ever a time when the kicking team can recover the ball? If the ball bounces off or deflects off one of the players on the receiving team, can the kicking team recover it?

Answer: Yes. The receiving team can let the ball roll dead without touching it. If someone on the receiving team touches the ball, it becomes a live ball and the kicking team can try to get it.

Corey Sutor adds: The kicking team can recover the ball if it is punted and lands behind the original line of scrimmage. This happened to me in high school when our punter kicked the ball into 50 mph winds and the ball landed 5 yards behind our line of scrimmage. I picked it up and ran for 70 yards.

Question: On a kickoff, if the kicking team kicks the ball down field and no player on the receiving team touches it and the kicking team picks up the ball is it the kicking team's ball?

Answer: Yes. The rules for a kickoff are very different from those for a punt. The ball becomes live after it travels foward 10 yards.

Question: On a punt, can the kicking team bat the ball back after the ball has crossed the plain of the goal line? Provided the member of the kicking team never was physically in the endzone.

Answer: No.

Question: On a punt, if the ball goes over the crossbar does it count as a field goal?

Answer: A punt can never score a field goal. It must be a place kick or drop kick from scrimmage. A kickoff that goes through the uprights does not score a field goal either. In a punt, the ball is kicked before it touches to ground; in a drop kick, the ball is kicked as it touches the ground. Drop kicks are very rare.

Question: Please explain the on-side kick.

Answer: On kickoffs, the ball is live once it has travelled forward 10 yards whether or not the receiving team has touched it unless it hits the ground in the end zone untouched. If a team is behind late in the game and they score a touchdown or field goal, they sometimes use an on-side kick for the following kickoff. An on-side kick is a kickoff that is deliberately designed to go just over 10 yards. Sometimes, the kicking team can get the ball when an on-side kick is used. Kickoffs (and therefore on-side kicks) occur only after a touchdown or field goal or at the start of a half. On-side kicks rarely work.

Normally, a receiver must not be interfered with before he catches the ball. That is why on an on-side kick the kicker almost always kicks the ball into the ground first. That removes the possibility for interference.

Question: How far has the ball have to go before its not considered as an on-side kick?

Answer: There is no fixed distance for this.

Question: How far should the receiving team be from the kicking team? Is it different for punts and kickoffs?

Answer: Zero yards for punts and ten yards for kickoffs.

Question: What is a touchback?

Answer: See Introduction to American College Football Rules for a touchback during a kickoff. A touchback can happen in other circumstances where the defense gets control of the ball in their own end zone and does not run it out. For example, if the offense fumbles the ball and it rolls into the end zone where the defense recovers it. Or the defense intercepts a pass in their own end zone.

Question: Is this an example in which the other team would get a safety? Offense throws the ball into the endzone for a TD, but it is intercepted by a defensive player who is then taken down (still in the endzone) by someone from the other team? Also, under what other conditions would a safety be awarded?

Answer: This is a touchback rather than a safety. In a touchback, no points are scored (a safety is 2 points) and the ball is taken out to the 20 yard line where the other team takes over.

A safety is scored when the ball is downed (no turnover is needed) in the offense's end zone.

Question: Suppose a player receives a kickoff in the end zone, he does not down the ball and is tackled in the end zone without ever coming out. Is it a saftey or a touchback?

Answer: A touchback. If he had left and re-entered the endzone it would be a safety.

Question: After the disappointing kickoff return that scored a TD for Auburn on 9/16/00, I wanted to know what is special teams trained to do? It seems they certainly can't play defensively. Also, are they considered defense?

Answer: They are trained in kicking plays. They are not considered to be either offense or defense. Traditionally special teams have players who are not yet good enough to be on the first team for either offense or defense. During a kick, both sides have their special teams on the field. Thus, although LSU's special team did not do well during the kickoff, Auburn's special team did fine.

Question: Can you explain more about what a special team is? How comes that there is a special team?

Answer: Special teams are used whenever the ball is going to be kicked (punt, field goal, extra point or kickoff). Special teams exist because the skills needed for a kicking play are different from those needed for either offense or defense.

Question: Can you briefly explain the nickel and dime formations?

Answer: A defensive team normally has 4 defensive backs. In a nickel formation there are 5 defensive backs; in a dime formation there are 6 defensive backs. These can be used in situations where a pass play is very likely such as third down and fifteen yards to go or in the last two minutes of a half.

Question: What is a Hail Mary pass?

Answer: A desperation pass thrown to the end zone from a long distance out in the closing seconds of a game. The offense has only a prayer of a chance that it will be caught.

Question: How many passes are allowed in American football?

Answer: One forward pass per play. Any number of backward passes may be made during a play, in addition to the forward pass.

Question: What is meant by the term play action?

Answer: In a play action pass, the quarter back pretends to give the ball to a running back who then keeps going as if he had the ball. Meantime, the quarter back steps back and passes the ball.

Question: Why does the offense want to stop the clock during the last 2 minutes of each half?

Answer: In hopes of being able to score points before time runs out. On the other hand, if the team with the ball is ahead at the end of the game, they try to run out the clock instead of stopping it.

Question: Why does a team's offense take a knee?

Answer: Teams take a knee when they are ahead at the end of the game and can win just by running out the clock.

Question: Please explain loss of down. I thought that it meant the next down would be the down of the next play. For example, if the QB is called for intentional grounding on first down, the team would be penalized 5 yards, and the next play would be 2nd down--they lost 1st down. A friend says the next play would be third down--the team lost 2nd down.

Answer: You're right. With most penalties the down is played over. With loss of down, the down with the penalty counts as a down and the next play is the next consecutive down.

Question: Could you explain the term red shirt freshman? In a group discussion no one could come up with an explanation of this term.

Answer: Traditionally, someone who practices with a football team but is not eligible to play wears a red shirt. Coaches will often try to hold out some freshmen from playing so their four years of eligibility starts with their sophomore year. Such sophomores are called red shirt freshmen. This practice results in a more experienced football team since such players have one extra year of practice.

Question: Can any other year be red shirt except for Freshman?

Answer: The NCAA allows each player five years to complete four years of competition. To red shirt, whether planned or unplanned, the player cannot play even a single down. The red shirt can be taken in any year.

An exception is the so-called medical red shirt, where a player goes down with a season ending injury. In that event, the medical red shirt may be applied for, assuming the player participated in no more than 25% of the season - normally three games - after the completion of his normal eligibility.

Question: What is an All-American?

Answer: A player who has been selected as best at his position by some self-appointed organization. The Walter Camp All-America Team is one of the better know selections.

Question: What happens if a team blocks an extra point attempt and runs the ball back to the opposite end zone? Can a defensive team score two points if they intercept a two point conversion and run it back?

Answer: That defensive team scores two points in either case.

Question: What is the difference between throwing away the ball and intentional grounding?

Answer: Not much. However, because passes can be badly thrown unintentionally, the grounding must be really blatant for the penalty to be called. In particular, there must be no receiver anywhere near where the ball was thrown and the quarterback must still be in the pocket near where he started rather than scrambling around.

Question: There are times during a game when the quarterback will spike the ball to stop the clock. Why isn't this a penalty for intentional grounding?

Answer: Intention grounding is done to avoid being sacked. There is a special rule permitting spiking the ball immediately after the quarterback gets it.

Question: What does it mean for the quarterback to be 'standing in the pocket'?

Answer: As the defensive linemen try to get to the quarterback and the offensive linemen try to block them, a pocket forms with linemen to the left, front and right of the quarterback.

Question: After all of these years of seeing all of these bowl games, can you explain what they all mean? How do you know who the national champ is? It seems like all of these bowls claim to have the national champs. Can you explain please? When I ask people they just give me a confused look.

Answer: There is no official national champion. All the bowl games are run by separate organizations who attempt to get the best and most popular teams they can to their bowl games. However, the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) tries to get the two top rated teams into the same bowl game. The NCAA now insists that any team invited to a bowl game must have a winning record.

The NCAA allows the bowl system to continue because the schools as a whole make much more money this way than they ever would if playoffs were held, as is done in all of the lower divisions. (The best teams are in Division I-A. The other divisions are I-AA, II, and III.)

The AP and ESPN/USA today polls are the most widely accepted arbiters of who is the national champion. However, there is nothing sacred about their rankings and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. There are many computer-based rating systems that select a national champion in an objective manner. For further information, see http://www.cae.wisc.edu/~dwilson/rsfc/rate/ and http://www.mratings.com/cf/compare.htm.

Question: Does the defense ever score points? Do they get credit for points scored on an interception ran back for a touchdown for example?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Who are the players that push the defense out of the way to clear an offensive player's path as he is running with the ball?

Answer: The offensive line (center, guards and tackles), the tight end and the other running back.

Question: Who are the Half-backs or the running backs? What is an "I" formation? What is a shotgun formation?

Answer: A running back accepts a hand-off from the quarter back and runs with the ball. There are usually two running backs who line up behind the quarter back. They can line up either with one behind the other, which is called the "I" formation, or side-by-side, which is called the "T" formation. Some teams call them the fullback and tailback with the tailback being further back, and other teams call them the halfback and fullback with the fullback being further back.

In the shotgun formation, the quarter back is alone in the backfield. Everyone else is spead out along the line of scrimmage.

Question: Are there specific rules about formations? Are these rules more liberal for defense than for offense?

Answer: The linemen have to be near the line of scrimmage. They are seperated from the opposing team by the length of the football. Everyone has to be behind the line of scrimmage. Exactly 11 men on the field for each side. The offense can have no more than 4 men back from the line of scrimmage; the defense can have any number of backs.

Question: Does the quarterback call audibles based on what he sees in the defensive formation?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Is the defense obligated to form up prior to the offense?

Answer: No. However, if the offense sees that the defense is not ready when they get to the line of scrimmage, they will start the play at once.

Question: How are the quarterback efficiency ratings calculated?

Answer: (Completions/Attempts x 100) + (Yards/Att. x 8.4) + (TDs/Att. x 330) - (INTs/Att. x 200)   This formula is not the same as the one used in the NFL.

Question: What is an option?

Answer: In an option play, the quarter back starts by running toward one of the side lines. Depending on how the defense reacts, the quarter back has the option of either (1) throwing the ball, (2) handing the ball off to a running back who has been running along side of him or (3) running with the ball himself. Usually the decisions about whether to run with or pass the ball and, for a running play, who will carry the ball, are made before the play starts. In an option play these decisions are made during the play.

Question: Please explain screens to me. What are they and what form do they take on the field (ie a receiver here, 2 xxx on this side, etc.)?

Answer: In a typical screen pass, a running back and three linemen run to one side of the field. The three linemen make arrange themselves in front of the running back to "screen" the running back from the defenders. The quarter back then throws the ball to the running back.

Question: Is a reverse lateral legal after a player crosses the line of scrimmage with the ball?

Answer: A lateral is a pass that goes sideways or backwards. Forward passes are usually thrown overhand whereas laterals are usually tossed underhand but either can be thrown the other way. Forward passes must be thrown from behind the line of scrimmage. Laterals are legal anywhere. There can be just one forward pass during a play.

Question: If the defense rushes the quarterback and the quarterback runs past the line of scrimmage can he still pass the ball to a receiver?

Answer: No, unless the pass is a lateral.

Question: If the quarter back is behind the line of scrimage can he throw the ball under hand to one of his receivers?

Answer: Yes. This is called a shovel pass.

Question: What are the length and width of the goal posts? How high are they for high school?

Answer: I don't know. In NCAA Div. II, the goal posts are 18.5 feet apart and at least 30 feet high. The cross bar is 10 feet from the ground. The padding on the center post is at least 6 feet high. They are placed at the far edge of the end zones, 10 yards past the goal lines.

Question: What is the difference, physically, between blocking done by offensive players and tackling done by the defense?

Answer: A blocker may not use his hands to grab and restrain an opponent. Defense can grab and restrain (tackle) only the player with the ball or someone pretending to have the ball after a fake handoff.

Question: What are offensive linemen supposed to block with if they can't use their hands?

Answer: With their bodies and arms.

Question: Does the penalty 'illegal block' count when the offensive player has passed up the defensive player and then gets tackled?

Answer: This depends on whether or not the offensive player has the ball. It is always legal to tackle the person with the ball; it is not legal to tackle a person who the defender knows does not have the ball.

Question: Is there a limit to how hard you can tackle a player?

Answer: Yes. The penalty is called "unnecessary roughness." This would include, for example, throwing a punch.

Question: Many times I see a call for illegal blocking, when a defensive player hits the offensive player from the back. On the other hand, when a receiver is running he is very often brought down from some defensive player by grabbing of the legs. When is it legal to hit from the back?

Answer: It is legal to tackle the offensive player who has the ball from the back. Offensive players who don't have the ball must be blocked rather than tackled and it is illegal to block (or shove) from the back.

Question: If a player is running with the ball, falls down on his own accord, can he get back up and keep running or is he ruled down?

Answer: He is down. According to the Ball in play rules "LIVE BALL DECLARED DEAD...when any part of the runner's body (except his hand or foot) touches the ground."

Question: If the ball carrier's hand touches the ground while running, is the play called dead?

Answer: No.

Question: If a receiver gets the ball and runs downs the field and can another receiver block for him?

Answer: Yes. As with any other block, the other receiver cannot block from behind or tackle.

Question: How are hash marks identified on the field?

Answer: There are yard lines placed from one side line to the other every 5 yards. At every yard between those yard lines, two foot long hash marks are placed at 60 feet to 62 feet from each side line.

Question: Could you tell me how to learn what the numbers that the quarter back says and what they mean and where to go when he says them.

Answer: The meanings are not fixed for a good reason: they don't want the opponents to know what's going to happen and when. Therefore the meaning (or lack of meaning) of the numbers is a team secret.

Question: What is illegal touching? I've watched football my whole life and never seen this penalty called until the 1999 OU/Texas game. Also I might be mistaken but there seemed to be no actual penalty, there was a flag thrown and a call made but no loss of yards or down.

Answer: For example, when the quarter back throws the ball into the back of an offensive lineman. It's illegal for offensive linemen to touch the ball. The penalty is just 5 yards so the other team may have declined the penalty and accepted the play with the incompleted pass.

Question: How can the defense take the ball, since they can't steal it when it is in the air? If they can, do their roles then change? For example the defense becomes the offense, and the opposite?

Answer: The defense can steal when it is in the air. Or the defense can simply take the ball away from an offensive player. Or the defense can recover the ball after an offensive player has dropped (fumbled) it.

They do switch rolls after such a turnover. There will be a massive substitution of offensive and defensive players before the next play starts.

Question: I've seen that although a player's on the ground with the ball, tackled by someone else, the others run to catch the ball. However, I've read that when the ball or the player touch the ground the play stops. When can this happen?

Answer: Only when the offensive player has dropped (fumbled) the ball before he was on the ground. After a fumble, the play is not over even though the ball has touched the ground. If a receiver drops a pass before getting control of the ball, it does not count as a fumble.

Question: Can you advance a fumble in college football?

Answer: In 1992 it was ruled that a fumble can be advanced by a defensive player anywhere on the field.

Question: Are the linemen never allowed to advance the ball?

Answer: A defensive lineman who recovers a fumble can advance the ball. Offensive lineman are not even allowed to touch the ball except to recover a fumble.

Question: On a kickoff, how many yards must you give the reciever? 3, 5, it makes no difference?

Answer: The receiver must be given 2 yards space while catching the ball. If the receiver has raised his arm to ask for a fair catch, he must not be tackled. On a fair catch the receiver may not run with the ball.

Question: What is the ruling if an offensive player fumbles out of the endzone they're attempting to score on?

Answer: It's a touchdown. Once the ball carried by a runner breaks the imaginary vertical plane at goal line or once a receiver catches and controls the ball in the end zone, the play is over. On the other hand, if the ball carrier fumbled before reaching the endzone and the ball went into and out of the endzone, it is a touchback and the ball goes to the other team.

Question: When a field goal attempt is no good is the ball spotted at the line of scrimmage or where the ball is spotted by the holder?

Answer: At the line of scrimmage or at the 20 yard line if the line of scrimmage is inside the 20.

Question: If the offense kicks a field goal on third down and miss do they get another chance on fourth down?

Answer: Usually not. However, if the ball doesn't cross the line of scrimmage when kicked (for example, it gets blocked) and the offence recovers the ball, it is 4th down at that spot and they may kick again if they wish.

Question: If the ball is spotted on the 10 yard line and you decide to kick a field goal. How far is the actual field goal?

Answer: 27 yards. The ball would be kicked from 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage and the goal posts are 10 yards past the goal line.

Question: Do playing teams switch (rotate) sides on the field at the quarter or at half time?

Answer: The switch occurs in the middle of each half--at the start of the second and fourth quarters. The teams might or might not switch at the half.

At the start of a game, there is a coin toss. The team that wins the coin toss says whether it wants first choice of the options at the start of the game or the start of the second half. The other team gets the first choice of the options at the start of the other half. At the start of each half, the team with first choice of options can decide to either received the ball on a kickoff, kick the ball or pick which goal they want to defend (that is, which side of the field they want) for the next quarter. Almost everyone elects to receive the ball on a kickoff. Then the other team selects which goal they want to defend.

For example, say Wisconsin is playing Purdue; Wisconsin wins the toss; Wisconsin defers--decides to take first choice at the start of the second half. Purdue elects to receive the kickoff at the start of the game and Wisconsin elects to defend the South goal. At the start of the second quarter, the teams switch sides. At the start of the second half (third quarter) Wisconsin elects to receive and Purdue elects to defend the South goal. In this case, since Purdue was defending the South goal in the second quarter, the teams do not switch sides at the start of the second half. At the start of the fourth quarter, the teams do switch sides.

Question: Last Sunday I noticed that the Jets won the coin toss and elected to kick off. Then to start off the second half, the Jets kicked off again. How is that possible? Is it true that if you win the coin toss and elect to kick off, you risk kicking off to start the third quarter also as the team who lost the toss gets to pick in the second half? Also, can a team that won the opening coin toss "defer" and thus be able to choose to get the ball to start the third quarter?

Answer: Electing to kickoff after winning the coin toss is always a mistake. Yes, the team that won the coin toss can elect to defer having the first choice until the start of the second half. If you defer, you normally end up kicking off at the start of the game. I saw one game where the University of Wisconsin coach intended to defer but the player on the field elected to kickoff instead. The player did not appreciated the difference. The coach was not pleased; Wisconsin ended up kicking off at the start of both halves.

Question: How many substitutions are allowed in American football?

Answer: The entire team can be replaced each down.

Question: Can you rip a ball out of a player's hands?

Answer: Yes. This counts as a fumble. Runners must be careful to guard the ball.

Question: If a ball is caught in the end zone but is still in the air and gets knocked out of bounds before touching the end zone floor, what is it?

Answer: A touchdown, assuming the receiver got control of the ball before it was knocked out of his hands.

Question: How many injurys have to happen before the game is forfeited?

Answer: When a team no longer has 11 players to put on the field the game must be forfeited.

Question: How long does the ball have to be caught before it's a catch?

Answer: Time is not important. What's important is having control. As long as the ball is bobbling around, it's not a catch. If the ball is caught firmly between the hands and the body, it's a catch at once.

Question: Can a team forfeit a season?

Answer: Yes. Madison College went bankrupt after 3 games had been played in their first season. The college went out of business and the rest of the season was forfeited.

Question: Can an offense player swap to a defense player?

Answer: Absolutely. Once upon a time all players did both offense and defense. Now, only a few do.

Question: What does the tackle do on the defense side? What does the right tackle do to on the offensive side?

Answer: The linemen all have the same job no matter what they are called (tackle, guard, end). Defensive linemen try to tackle the runner on a running play and hurry or sack the quarter back on a passing play. Offensive linemen try to stop the defensive linemen from doing their jobs. This is made more difficult by the fact the offensive linemen may not grab with their hands while trying to block the defensive linemen.

Question: Please define and explain the meaning of point spread.

Answer: Point spread is the difference between the final scores of the two teams. When wagers are placed on a game, often there is an agreement as to how many points the favored team must win by in order for the person betting on that team to win the bet. For example, if Wisconsin is favored to win by 9 and a half over Northwestern, then if Wisconsin wins by 10 or more, Wisconsin has beat the point spread and the person betting on Wisconsin wins. Otherwise, the person betting on Northwestern wins. If Wisconsin had been favored by 10 and ended up winning by 10, the bet is off.

Question: What is the rules for which team has 1st choice in which jersey color is worn?

Answer: Teams have one set of dark jerseys with light numerals to wear when they play at home and another set of light jerseys with dark numerals to wear when they play away. (If the visiting team agrees, the home team may wear white.)

There are 3 teams in the Big Ten that have red and white colors (Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin). When they play each other, the home team has red jerseys with white numerals and the visiting team has white jerseys with red numerals.

Question: What is the difference between a tight end, a split end, and a flanker?

Answer: In the early days of college football, the "flying wedge" was a common play. The offensive players lined up in a V shape well behind the line of scrimmage with the ball carrier in the middle. They then ran at the defense. At the end of the play the ball carrier leapt over the front of the wedge to get a couple more yards. This play resulted in a lot of injuries.

As a result the rules were changed to require that 7 of the 11 men on the offensive team line up near the line of scrimmage. The players at the extreme sides of the 7 players are called "ends" and are eligible to catch passes. If an end lines up close to the other line men, he is called a tight end. If an end lines up further away from the other line men, he is called a split end. Thus, it is possible to have two tight ends or two split ends.

A flanker (or wide receiver) is one of the other 4 players and can start anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. The officials know who is a split end and who is a flanker based on the numbers on their jerseys.

Question: Is there a set of rules governing which players can wear which jersey numbers?

Answer: Yes, for the offense. Ends are numbered from 80 to 99. Other linemen are numbered from 50 to 79. The other 4 players are numbered from 1 to 49.

Question: Is it possible to kick a field goal in overtime? In the 2001 Ole Miss vs. Arkansas game, they had 7 overtimes. Neither team tried for a field goal; they both went for 2 points after each touchdown in the overtime.

Answer: Yes, it is possible to kick a field goal in overtime.

If the game is tied after the regular 60 minutes of play, the teams play overtimes until the tie is broken. In each overtime, each team gets to start at the opponent's 25 yard line. The winner of the coin toss before the first overtime normally elects to go second. The second team will know how many points it must score to win or at least continue the tie. The first team must try to get a touchdown (but may decide to settle for a field goal on 4th down) to make it as difficult as possible for the second team. If the first team does get a touchdown, the second team cannot settle for less.

For subsequent overtimes, the teams alternate which one is first. Starting with the third overtime period, teams must go for 2 points after scoring a touchdown.

Question: In overtime in college football if the team who has the ball first scores and then the other team fumbles or throws an interception can it be returned for a touchdown or is it a dead ball and the game is over?

Answer: The play is not over until the down ends by rule: it can be returned for a touchdown. Doing so would be just plain stupid because they've already won the game and would risk another fumble during the return. It's also the kind of action the opponents would remember next time they played. The smart thing to do in that situation is to just kneel it down or run out of bounds.

Question: What are the little symbols on the sides of some teams' helmets? For instance, Ohio State has what looks like little plants and Clemson has paw prints.

Answer: These are awarded for outstanding plays by some teams.

Question: If a team kicks a field goal on 3rd or 2nd down and misses, do they still have possession of the ball?

Answer: No. They give up the rest of their downs and turn over the ball at the line of scrimmage or at the 20 yard line, whichever is better for the other team. Exception: if the kick is blocked and the kicking team recovers the ball following the block, then they still do have possession of the ball.

Question: If a receiver catches the football in bounds with one foot down, but the defender pushes the receiver out of bounds and the other foot lands out of bounds is that a complete pass or not?

Answer: That is a completed pass.

Question: If a reciver is coming back for the catch and he catches the football at the 28 yardline but his momentum caries him back to the 26 yard line, do the officals put the football at the 28 or the 26 yardline?

Answer: At the 26.

Question: For defensive pass interference in the end zone, where is the ball placed and what is the penalty?

Answer: The NCAA penalty is very different from the NFL penalty. In NCAA the penalty is 15 yards from the line of scrimmage and an automatic first down. The penalty limitation of half the distance to the goal line does NOT apply. However, if the 15 yards would place the ball inside the 2 yard line, the ball is placed at the 2 yard line.

Question: When is the 2 point conversion used?

Answer: It's used late in a game when the two points can really make a difference. For example, say a team is behind by 11 points. After scoring a touchdown, they are then behind by 5 points. If they kick an extra point they would need a touchdown to win and could not tie with a field goal. Thus, being 4 points behind is no better than being 5 points behind if there's not much playing time left. However, if they can get a 2 point coversion, they will be just 3 points behind and can tie with a field goal.

Question: What is a secondary?

Answer: In the defense, stopping a running play is primarily the job of the defensive linemen and line backers. If a runner gets past these defenders, he's in the secondary. Stopping a running play is the secondary job of the defensive corners and safeties. Their primary job is stopping pass plays.

Question: What is the quarterback doing under center when he lifts his foot?

Answer: When he raises his foot whoever is to be in "Motion" should go into motion at that point.

Question: In college football if a defensive player goes out of bounds can he come back onto the field of play and make a tackle ?

Answer: Yes.
NCAA: The only 2 restrictions about players going out of bounds and returning are:
1) A kicking team player may not voluntarily go out of bounds and return. 5yd penaty from previous spot.
2) An eligible offensive receiver may not voluntarily go out of bounds and return and be the first to touch a legal forward pass. Loss of down at the previous spot.

Question: Can the long snapper get hit in college football? I know once he crosses the line of scrimmage he can but what about when he is snapping?

Answer: NCAA: A snapper in a scrimmage kick formation may not be directly contacted for 1 second following the snap unless he moves to participate in the play.

Question: Where is the ball placed after a runner is forced out-of-bounds? Is it be down where he went off or does the play return to where it started?

Answer: The new line of scrimmage is where the ball went out-of-bounds. The ball is brought in to the nearest hash marks.

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Last update Tuesday, 08-Oct-2013 09:41:02 CDT