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Rules review video: Touching the pylon, ball carrier down, and targeting with the lights out

National college officiating coordinator Steve Shaw explains some rulings from Week 11



2023 media video #12

National coordinator of football officials Steve Shaw posted his weekly video breaking down rules and interpretations from Week 11 of the college football season. Prior to breaking down plays, the following statistics were given in regards to kickoffs.

Injury rate on kickoffs is slightly below the rate of a regular play from scrimmage. There is an average of 10.4 kickoffs per game, with 34% being returned. In terms of potential exciting plays, there have been 29 kickoff return TDs. Also, 140 onside kicks have been attempted, and 18.6% have been successful (recovered by the kicking team).

  • Touching the pylon. Shaw showed two separate plays where ball carriers hit the pylon with a body part instead of the ball. By rule, the ball is declared dead when the runner makes contact with the pylon. On the first play, the ball broke the plane. On the second play, the ball was marked short of the goal line.
  • Ball carrier down. The quarterback scrambled on 3rd down and took off running. He made a diving attempt at the sticks and was given the first down. Upon review, it was determined his shin was clearly down with the ball short of the line to gain.
  • Targeting in the dark. A receiver caught the ball in the end zone and was subsequently hit, potentially in the head or neck area. The ruling on the field was a TD with a flag for targeting. Upon review, it was determined that the defender made legal shoulder contact with the receiver and the flag was picked up. As a part of the celebration, the stadium lights went out. At this moment, there was small skirmish that had to be separated in the dark. Shaw mentioned this is something that will be looked at in the offseason.
  • Facemask. The defender on the play appears to grab the earhole of the helmet on the offensive player. This falls under illegally grabbing the facemask, as all helmet openings are considered part of the facemask in this foul. Though the runner’s helmet came off, he does not have to leave the field for one play as the removal of the helmet was a direct result of a foul.
  • Fumble. After an interception, the defense returned the ball all the way to the end zone, but fumbled the ball in celebration prior to crossing the goal line (yes, it happened again). The original offense noticed this happen, and recovered the ball at the 1 yard line. They started a new series 1st and 10 from their own 1 yard line.
  • Illegal blindside block. On a run play, and offensive player makes forcible contact with a defender while moving parallel to the goal line and is flagged for an illegal blindside block. This contact is allowed by rule when it is not forcible. An extended arm block or a screen type play would make this block legal, per Shaw.

Josh Cohn is a college student at Rochester Institute of Technology studying software engineering and creative writing. As a child, Josh would often officiate games between his friends and classmates during recess.