Normally, I don’t write anything about football though I once had to explain the difference between football in the north and south (“The Difference Between Football in the North and the South”). I have, on a number of occasions, mentioned being a football official in elementary, junior high, and high school games. I would have even done college games and was preparing to do one when the proverbial knee injury ended my career in 1987.
I don’t watch professional football anymore because, and I will be honest, I got tired of telling parents and coaches during the elementary games on Saturday, “This isn’t Sunday.” There are rules that pros use that are not used at other levels but the only games that many people watch are on Sunday so they don’t understand the rules of the game. I even had a coach for an elementary level game try a play that came out of a magazine article “Ten Plays You Will Never See On Sunday”; it was based on certain rules in the pros that prevent certain things from happening. In this instance, it was the quarterback in motion/fake time-out play. The only problem for this innovative elementary game coach is that he forgot that the primary responsibility of a coach, especially at the beginning levels, is to teach the game, not fiddle with it. This coach didn’t teach the kids and the play didn’t work that night on Thursday either.
The one thing about officiating elementary,junior high and high school games is that you often see plays that are in the rule books but you never see them in college games. Once several years ago, when Iowa was blasting Illinois something fierce, I saw the referee do something to the clock that was either 1) a misunderstanding of the situation or 2) something akin to a mercy rule but that is for another time.
This last Saturday (9/5/2009), the first Saturday of the new football season, there were two plays that emphasize teaching the game and knowing the rules (there maybe a sermon in this later; we will have to wait and see).
First, there was the Ohio State – Navy game. At first glance, this should have been a blow-out for Ohio State but Navy has a good program. I didn’t watch the game (hey, I am Iowa graduate and an Air Force brat, two reason for not watching). Ohio State took a lead but Navy battled back. I guess there were about two minutes left in the game when Navy scored to make it 29 – 27 in favor of OSU. Navy goes for the two-point conversion to tie the game.
But the pass is intercepted by an Ohio State player and he runs it back the entire length of the field giving Ohio State two points and making the score 31 – 27.
This rule, allowing the defense to score on a try for point, was put in a number of years ago and pops up in a game every now and then.
But what happened at the end of the University of Northern Iowa – Iowa game is something that I knew was in the books but had never seen.
Iowa is leading UNI 17 – 16 with 7 seconds to play (I have a feeling this is going to be a long season for the Hawkeyes). It is UNI’s ball, 1st and 10 and they are going to try a field goal from approximately forty yards. It is blocked by Iowa but recovered by UNI. The Iowa players could have recovered the ball but treated it like a punt and stayed away from it. If they touch it, then it becomes a free ball. (That, by the way, is something that the Iowa coaches are going to have to think about; the players did what they are coached to do but you have to think about the situation.)
There is 1 second left on the clock. Now, everyone in the stands who is rooting for Iowa is jumping up and down, cheering madly and getting ready to celebrate. Those in the stands rooting for UNI are crying and probably cursing the football gods.
But wait, the referee is announcing that, by rule, the kicking team (UNI) still maintains possession of the ball, not Iowa! Now everyone from UNI is cheering madly and everyone from Iowa is screaming “bloody murder.”
Then it is announced that the play is under review. Here’s the key to this – you have two football officials who are on the line of scrimmage. One of their responsibilities during a kick (punt, field goal, or try for point after touchdown) is to make sure that the ball crosses the line of scrimmage. If it doesn’t, then the kicking team can recover the blocked kick and retain possession. And guess what! That’s exactly what happened. The ball was blocked before it passed the line of scrimmage and it never crossed the line. So, by recovering the ball, UNI had another opportunity.
Remember it was 1st down when they tried the kick; now it is 2nd down. With 1 second on the clock, UNI attempts another field goal from 40 yards away and Iowa again blocks the kick! IOWA 17 — UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN IOWA 16
In other scores of note, Truman State is now 1 – 1 having lost in its opener to Mankato State 31 – 13 last week and beating Oklahoma Panhandle State 54 – 7; Missouri beat Illinois 37 – 9, and Air Force beat Nichols State 72 – 0
My first thoughts after the game are that it is going to be a long, long season but for right now, “STRIKE UP THE BAND!”