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Rules review video: Illegal forward pass, illegal touching, and simulated kneeldowns

National college officiating coordinator Steve Shaw explains some rulings from Week 5



2023 media video #6

National coordinator of football officials Steve Shaw posted his weekly video breaking down rules and interpretations from Week 5 of the college football season.

First, Shaw shared statistics regarding the new clock rules.

(FBS level only)2023 (5 weeks)2022
Avg. # plays per game176181
Length of game3:163:21
% games exceeding 3½ hours13.7%23.5%

Here are the rules interpretations discussed this week:

  • The quarterback rolled right and passed to his receiver downfield. It looked like the passer may have crossed the line of scrimmage before going fully behind it again and passing. While his feet and the football were clearly across the line, it appears his shoulder and arm did not go beyond it. As a result, the play was legal.
  • A punt that first touches the kicking team is a foul for illegal touching. After this illegal touching occurs, the receiving team is allowed to return the punt with very low risk. As long as they don’t commit a foul, the receiving team gets to choose whether to take the ball at the end of the return spot or at the illegal touching spot, even if the punt is muffed or fumbled by the receiving team.
  • A ball carrier is not allowed to do any action that simulates or is close to kneeling down as a fake out technique. In this play, while the knee of the quarterback never touches the ground, it is close enough that the officials will blow the play dead and mark the ball at the spot of the simulated kneeldown.
  • While a quarterback was in the pocket, the defense started to pressure so the ball was thrown deep down the sideline and fell incomplete. After deliberation, a flag was thrown for intentional grounding, as there was no receiver in the area. While the coaching staff argued that it was a miscommunication between the receiver and the passer, there was still no receiver in the area.
  • A blitz led to the quarterback being stripped of the ball while making a pass attempt. Though the hand was clearly moving forward to make an attempt to pass, the ball was not firmly grasped and is therefore a fumble.
  • Upon review, it was determined a defender made forcible contact leading with the crown of his helmet. This defender was injured on the play, as his neck was compressed on the hit, which is part of the reason targeting is illegal in college football. The player was disqualified, but allowed to stay on the sideline for the remainder of the game. Shaw clarified that if a player is ejected for a violent act, two unsportsmanlike conducts, or any other flagrant action, they must return to the locker room and may not stay on the sideline.