Passing Situations

1.   Receiver A1 goes airborne at B's 40 to make an over-the-shoulder catch at B's 38.  He is contacted while airborne by B1, causing him to come down with the ball at B's 36.

Since the contact by B1 "adds to" the yardage gained by A1, the receiver is entitled to this yardage.  The ball will be spotted at B's 36.

2.   Receiver A1 leaps vertically at B's 40 to make a catch.  He is contacted while airborne by B1, causing him to come down with the ball at B's 42.

A1 leapt vertically, and the contact by B1 drove him backward.  The receiver is entitled to the yardage he had gained prior to the contact, so the ball will be spotted at B's 40.

3.   Receiver A1 is coming back to the ball when he goes airborne at B's 40.  He possesses the ball while airborne at B's 42, and is contacted by B1, causing him to come down with the ball at B's 44.

A1 did not leap vertically, but rather was coming back to the ball.  The covering official will have to judge where he/she believes A1 would have come down with the ball had there been no contact by B1.  In this situation (A1 going airborne at B's 40, then possessing the ball at B's 42), it is likely that this spot will be somewhere around B's 43.  This is strictly a judgment call on the part of the official.

4.   Receiver A1 leaps vertically at B's 40 to make a catch. As soon as his first foot touches the ground, he is hit by B1 and the ball comes loose.  B2 recovers the ball at B's 44.

Technically speaking, all that is required to complete a catch under high school (and NCAA) rules is to have the first foot down inbounds with possession of the ball…and as written, this appears to be the case.  That being said, we do not want any "cheap catches"!  If you have a "bang-bang" situation that could be either a catch and a fumble or just an incomplete pass, opt for the incomplete.   With things happening that quickly, did the receiver really have a firm hold of the ball…or was he bobbling it slightly?  When we play back the tape, will he have the ball for one frame or two before it comes loose?  In "real time" -- with emotions from both sidelines -- it is much easier to "sell" an incomplete pass when the ball goes almost immediately to the ground.  In order to rule a catch and fumble, we would prefer to see clear possession, followed (hopefully) by some sort of a "football move".  Rule this pass incomplete.

5.   Receiver A1 leaps near the sideline and returns to the ground with only one foot inbounds.  The first foot was out of bounds and the second foot was inbounds.

We get ourselves into a lot of trouble when we oversimplify the rules.  I often hear people say, "He only needs to get one foot down inbounds"…but the trouble is that it must be his first foot.  This is an incomplete pass.

6.   Receiver A1 leaps vertically near the sideline at B's 40.  He is contacted while airborne by B1, causing him to come down out of bounds at B's 42.

The covering official must determine whether -- in his/her opinion -- B1's contact caused A1 to come down out of bounds.  In this case (since A1 leapt vertically), it seems plausible that B1 is responsible for A1 landing out of bounds, and so this should be ruled a completed pass.  Also, A1's forward progress was actually stopped in the field of play, so (a) the ball should be spotted at B's 40, and (b) the clock should not stop (unless there is another reason for it to be stopped).  If there is a reason (first down, penalty, etc.), the clock would then start on the ready-for-play.

7.   1st and 10 from A's 20.  Receiver A2 runs his pattern wide, causing him to step out of bounds at A's 28.  He immediately returns inbounds at A's 30 and catches A1's pass at A's 40.  He is tackled by B1 at A's 45.

By definition, A2 does not lose his status as an eligible receiver by stepping out of bounds, but he will be guilty of illegal participation when he goes out of bounds on his own and then returns inbounds to participate in the play.  The covering official should drop his/her bean bag at the spot when A2 steps out of bounds (A's 28), and then drop a flag at the spot of the return inbounds (A's 30).  The 15-yard penalty will be enforced half-the-distance from the previous spot, bringing up 1st and 20 from A's 10.  If, in this play, A2 had been pushed out of bounds, he could have legally returned inbounds and participated, provided he did so at his first opportunity (which would appear to be the case).

8.   2nd and 10 from A's 20.  A1's pass to A2 down the far sideline falls incomplete.  While the pass is in the air, B1 contacts eligible receiver A3 who is between the hashes.  The pass falls incomplete.

There is no foul on this play.  Up until a few years ago, this could have been ruled pass interference (though I would have discouraged it) because the direction of the pass was of no consequence.  Now, contact by the defense is not considered pass interference if it is "obviously away from the direction of the pass".

9.   3rd and 10 from A's 20.  B1 is facing and in the path of receiver A2, but B1 does not contact A2.  While A1's pass is in flight, A2 initiates contact in an effort to reach the ball.  The pass falls incomplete.

This is offensive pass interference by A2.  The 15-yard penalty will be enforced half-the-distance, and with the loss of down will bring up 4th and 20 from A's 10.  B1 is facing the receiver, and thus has as much right to his position as does A2.

10. 4th and 10 from A's 20.  A2 and B1 are running stride-for-stride when their feet become tangled and both players lose their balance.  A2 was looking for the ball, but B1 was not.  A1's pass falls incomplete.

If both players (or neither player) had been looking for the ball, this would have been ruled incidental contact ("no harm, no foul").  But, since B1 was not looking for the ball, this is defensive pass interference.  The foul carries a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down, so the result in 1st and 10 from A's 35.

11. 3rd and 15 from A's 25.  A2 sprints from the line, covered by a backpedaling B1.  When A2 makes his cut and is moving away, B1 pursues him and pushes him from the side.  The contact occurs prior to A1's pass, which eventually falls incomplete.

This can not be defensive pass interference as the contact occurred prior to the pass being thrown.  However, when A2 made his cut -- moving away from and no longer a potential blocker for B1 -- subsequent contact by B1 is illegal.  The 10-yard penalty for illegal use of hands will bring up 3rd and 5 from A's 35.

12. 2nd and 15 from A's 25.  A1 is under intense pressure, and his errant pass from A's 15 strikes lineman A2 (who had dropped back for pass protection) in the back at A's 23.

There is no foul.  It is illegal for an ineligible receiver (such as A2) to bat, muff, or catch a forward pass when he is behind, in, or beyond the neutral zone, unless the pass has been touched by B.  The fact that an ineligible receiver is touched by a pass is not, in-and-of-itself, illegal.  (Obviously, had this occurred downfield, we would have a problem with that ineligible receiver being downfield.)

13. 1st and 10 from A's 30.  Wide receiver A2 is on the line, covering up tight end A3 who is also on the line.  A1's pass is complete to A3 at A's 40.

A3 is guilty of two fouls…even though neither one may be "his fault".  (It may be that A2 was supposed to be off the line, which could have made this play legal.)  A3 is guilty of being an ineligible receiver downfield (five-yard penalty), and is guilty of illegal touching (five yards and a loss-of-down).  B will surely opt for the illegal touching penalty which -- enforced from the previous spot -- will bring up 2nd and 15 from A's 25.

14. 1st and 10 from A's 30.  Wide receiver A2 is on the line, covering up tight end A3 who is also on the line.  A1's shovel pass is complete to A3 at A's 28, and he advances to A's 35 where he is tackled.

As above, A3 is an ineligible receiver (his fault or not), and as such, he may not bat, muff, or catch a forward pass unless it is first touched by B.  The five-yard penalty will be enforced from the spot of the touching, and along with the loss-of-down will make it 2nd and 17 from A's 23.  This is enforced from the spot of the touching because the touching occurred behind the basic (previous) spot.  In (13), the touching occurred in advance of the spot, so we utilized the basic (previous) spot.  This is the essence of the all-but-one enforcement philosophy.

15. 2nd and 10 from A's 30.  A1 is flushed from the pocket, and lineman A2 wanders downfield to A's 35.  He then returns to the line of scrimmage prior to A1's pass.  The pass is complete to A3 at A's 28, and he advances to A's 35 where he is tackled.

There is no foul as the pass did not cross the neutral zone.  If the pass had been completed at A's 32, this would have been a foul for an ineligible receiver downfield because even if A2 returns behind the line prior to the pass, he has still been downfield illegally.  This play illustrates the importance of the umpire moving to the line of scrimmage whenever a pass is thrown.  He will have the best (and perhaps only) "look" as to whether or not the pass crossed the line.

16. 3rd and 10 from A's 30.  Prior to A1's pass being thrown, lineman A2 contacts lineman B1 and drives him back four yards.  A1's pass is complete to A3 at A's 45, where he is tackled.

A2 is guilty of being an ineligible receiver downfield.  By rule, a lineman "is not illegally downfield if, at the snap, he immediately contacts an opponent and the contact does not continue beyond the expanded neutral zone" (two yards).  We're not going to nit-pick this one, but four yards is clearly too far to have driven the opponent back without penalty.  After the five-yard penalty, it will be 3rd and 15 from A's 25

17. 2nd and 10 from A's 30.  A1 is flushed from the pocket and, unable to find a receiver, throws the ball onto the track.  A1 was outside the tackle when he threw the pass, and the ball traveled beyond the line of scrimmage.

This may be legal on Saturdays (NCAA) and Sundays (NFL), but on Fridays (High School) this is intentional grounding.  The penalty is five yards from the spot of the pass and a loss of down.

18. 1st and 10 from A's 30.  A1 is under pressure, but is able to get the pass off in the direction of eligible A2 at A's 35.  A2 makes no attempt to reach the ball, and as a matter of fact is not even looking back toward the ball.

In order to avoid an intentional grounding call, A1 must have the good fortune to "dump the ball" in the vicinity of an eligible receiver.  The receiver need not make a play on the ball, or even be aware that a pass is being thrown toward him.  This is not a foul.

19. 2nd and 20 from A's 20.  A1's pass is intercepted by B1 at A's 35 and returned to A's 25.  After A1 has thrown the pass, he is roughed by B2.

B2 is guilty of roughing the passer.  The 15-yard penalty is enforced from the previous spot and includes an automatic first down, so the result is 1st and 10 from A's 35.  Any time that the pass is incomplete or intercepted -- or ends behind the line of scrimmage -- enforcement is from the previous spot.

20. 3rd and 20 from A's 20.  A1's pass is complete to A2 at A's 35.  A2 advances to A's 40 where he fumbles.  A3 recovers the fumble at A's 45.  After A1 has thrown the pass, he is roughed by B1.

B1 is guilty of roughing the passer, but in this situation, the pass was completed beyond the neutral zone…so enforcement is from the end of the run.  The run ended here at the spot of the fumble, so the 15-yard walk-off from A's 40 will make it 1st and 10 from B's 45.  If the ball had been advanced by A after the fumble (rather than just "fallen upon"), enforcement would have been from the end of that run.