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vibrotronica
11-23-2003, 10:36 AM
File this one under "esoteric shit vibrotronica became curious about while watching the LSU / Ole Miss game." The file is surprisingly large, but this is the only question I deemed SDMB worthy.

What is the record for the most yards required for a first down? I've seen 1st and 20 as the result of a penalty, and I think I remember a sack resulting in a 2nd and 35 once, but what's the record, both for college and professional football? And did the team in question pick up the first down? Idle minds demand to know!

Hari Seldon
11-23-2003, 01:07 PM
You know, not every conceivable statistic is actually tabulated and I would be rather surprised if this one were. I could easily imagine first and 40 (a 15 yard penalty on the first first and another one on the second), but then there might be a sack on the the third so you are maybe 2nd and 50. Who knows?

LSLGuy
11-23-2003, 01:41 PM
The limit case is 1st and 100 (99.999... actually).

aahala
11-23-2003, 02:24 PM
What I think you need to look for, for the absolute record, is the rare case where an offensive player gets confused, starts running in the opposite direction but gets tackled just short of scoring a safety.

In the 60's Jim Marshall as a defensive player wasn't stopped in a Vikings-49ers game and ran one back for 60 yards, giving San Francisco 2 points.:D

asomihite
11-23-2003, 02:42 PM
I just did a search for this, but to no avail. I think the most yards needed for a first down in the NFL might have been the result of a game in which Bob Griese (while trying to elude a pass rush) scrambled and kept running back in what ended up being the all-time greatest loss of yards in a single play. Of course I unfortunately can't remember how many yards this was.

There's a local channel here that sometimes shows high school football games and while channel surfing the other day, I saw that one of the teams was at 3rd and 49. I have no idea how they ended up in that bad of a spot, but needless to say, they didn't convert.

AncientHumanoid
11-23-2003, 04:19 PM
The worst case scenario would be 99 and 2/3rds (plus) yards to go.

But...

In order to get that on first would require such a complex set of penalties as to make it virtually improbable. Remember that once you get to a certain point, penalties are marked off half the distance to the goal line.

That ups the ante a bit, I would think.

AncientHumanoid
11-23-2003, 04:23 PM
Of course, on any other down besides first, a very blown play could get this bad in an instant.

I searched, but I'm finding no records of keeping this kind of statistic.

But, it's gotta be out there somewhere. Ever notice how MNF always seems to have a bunch of inconsequential statistics at their fingertips?

vibrotronica
11-23-2003, 04:31 PM
That's what I'm thinking, too. NoClue. Somebody somewhere's got to have that stat, although my searches have come up dry, too.

And also, to clear up any confusion, I'm not necessarily asking about the greatest number of yards to go on 1st down, but the greatest number of yards to go on any down. Although the greatest number of yards on 1st down would be gravy.

doctordoowop
11-23-2003, 04:32 PM
No-the limit is 1st & 99. Can't be penalized farther back than the one ,as I recall. That may be pro & not college.

x-ray vision
11-23-2003, 04:38 PM
originally posted by LSLGuy

The limit case is 1st and 100 (99.999... actually).

Same thing. (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=200497) ;)

The Long Road
11-23-2003, 04:46 PM
ok, my lack of football knowledge will show but consider the following situation: Team A is first(or any other down) and goal at the 1 yard line. The quarterback for team A takes the hike then fumbles, which is picked up by a team B player. Team B player runs 98 yards toward the other end of the field but at the last second gets smashed and drops the ball which is picked up by a team A player who falls down at the one yard line. Question, is it now 99 yards to goal?

AncientHumanoid
11-23-2003, 04:50 PM
No

Change of possesion occured. First and ten on the one. Need to go to eleven yard line. It would have to remain in the offence's possesion and just be really badly played.

Couldn't even have the ball carrier be picked up and carried (next question, right?) because the rule would be where the forward progress stopped.

AncientHumanoid
11-23-2003, 04:56 PM
Some Football Rules:

High School (http://www.nfhs.org/rules-football.htm)

NCAA (http://www.cae.wisc.edu/~dwilson/rsfc/intro/)

NFL (http://www.nflrulebook.com/) (gotta pay)

The Long Road
11-23-2003, 04:59 PM
No, next question was going to be, "has possession actually changed during the play" since during active play, both at the start of the down and end, Team A had possession of the ball.

AncientHumanoid
11-23-2003, 05:09 PM
I can't find the specific rule online, but a play like that happened today. Houston intercepted and then fumbled. The statistics showed an INT (+Hou, - NE) and a FUM (-Hou, +NE).

I'm pretty sure New England was given possesion with a first down, indicating a complete change of possesion bith ways. But, I didn't record it and we can't trust out memories...

AncientHumanoid
11-23-2003, 05:20 PM
ftr, it wasn't the first down (or lack of one) that indicated change of possesion. It was the +- INT and FUM which shows a complete change of possesion. The team possessing the ball is the only one that can lose a fumble. So, showing thet Houston fumbled and lost it on that play indicates that they had possession during the play, regardless of the eventual outcome.

Hope that clears it up. :)

It can get real complicated at times...

Duke
11-23-2003, 05:36 PM
I was unable to confirm it after an internet search, but I recall the Washington Redskins in a 1985(?--that's what I couldn't confirm) preseason game against the then-L.A. Raiders facing a 3rd-and-51. I remember it so well because I remember my uncle, a diehard Redskins fan, groaning, "How the hell did we end up with a 3rd-and-51?"

Beagle
11-23-2003, 05:55 PM
Personally, I have seen whatever and forty, and even fifty a few times. Sack, penalty, sack, penalty, whatever. The most likely way for a team to get into a -- very -- long yardage situation is a bad snap. One over the quarterback's head in the shotgun is one of the best for really big losses. Backwards fumbling out of the option, or the quarterback scrambling back too much and not getting rid of the ball are good for losses also.

Beyond that, first and sixty something -- I don't remember seeing except once when I went to a HS game. Quarterback runs backwards, fumble, scramble for ball* that moves the ball backwards quite a distance almost to the goal line. Next down: 3 and, I think, 65.

To the grindstone, just for you. I hate football. ;)

"longest yardage situation football"
First listing. There might be more, but I can't find it. (http://www.fayettevillenc.com/sports/answerman/) Maybe searching "bad snap," "snap sailed high," or "quarterback fumble" might turn up some results. I tried every combination of yardage requests and stuff I could think of.

*Benny Hill music would have been appropriate.

Doomtrain
11-23-2003, 06:01 PM
I saw a 2nd and 35 in the Dallas game today, if I recall right.

Holden West
11-23-2003, 08:02 PM
A Canadian Football League field is 110 yards long--couldn't a team be
third and 109 as unlikely as it seems? Can't find anything on the CFL site (http://www.cfl.ca/CFLHistory/records.html) although
Montreal's 109 yard rushing ruturn by George Dixon in Ottawa, September
2, 1963 is notable in an off-topic sort of way.

Cyberhwk
11-23-2003, 10:05 PM
Anecdote: 4th and 44. Yes, the converted. ;)

Freddy the Pig
11-23-2003, 10:56 PM
Just to clarify, with respect to the limiting case--when the ball is in between yard lines, it is advanced to the next yard for statistical purposes (both pro and college). So the worst possible situation is to be on your own 1-yard line, with 99 yards to go.

If the ball were just past your own goal line, this would be described by the announcers as "3rd and a long 99!" :D

Assuming that the CFL follows the same principle, they would have a 109-yard maximum.

doverpro
11-23-2003, 11:57 PM
Let's see....according to the OP, a first down is to be gained. That means no first-and-goal, so the closest that the ball could start from would be the eleven, but could be just outside the 10. Then some whack series of penalties keeps backing up the ball until the ball is finally placed on the one-yard line. It is now first-and-98.

BobT
11-24-2003, 12:00 AM
Actually, if you are going to use 1st and a number, the limit is 1st and 98. You can't be 1st and 99. You can only be as far back as your own yard line. If if it were 1st and 99, the line to gain would be the goal line and it would just be 1st and Goal.

So, if you're 1st and 10 at your opponents 11, you would need a sequence like this:
15-yard penalty: 1st and 25 at the +26
15-yard penalty: 1st and 40 at the +41
15-yard penalty: 1st and 55 at the -44
15-yard penalty: 1st and 70 at the -29

Now it gets tricky. If you get a 15 yard penalty inside your 30, then it becomes half the distance.

So let's do it this way"
10-yard penalty: 1st and 80 at the -19
5-yard penalty: 1st and 85 at the -14
5-yard penalty: 1st and 90 at the -9

Now any penalty becomes half the distance, so you will have to go -9, -5, -3, -1 (more or less)

You will then have a 1st and 98. So I'm counting 10 penalties.

Quack
11-24-2003, 12:12 AM
GMRyujin,

I believe it got to 3rd and 36 after a false start penalty. Amazing they called any penalties in Dallas' favor today....

Little Nemo
11-24-2003, 12:13 AM
A little football history trivia: when the idea of downs was first introduced, a team got a first down by gaining ten yards or losing five yards.

BobT
11-24-2003, 01:43 AM
Originally posted by Little Nemo
A little football history trivia: when the idea of downs was first introduced, a team got a first down by gaining ten yards or losing five yards.

Huh? Most sources I find say that when downs were introduced, there were three downs to make five yards. (1882). It went to 10 yards in 1905 and finally four downs to make 10 yards in 1912.

Omniscient
11-24-2003, 05:19 AM
I was just going to post that the longest possibleis first and 98, not 99. First and 99 would be saying first and goal, not the same thing. However, doverpro and BobT beat me to it.

nineiron
11-24-2003, 08:10 AM
One thing is sure, though. If it ever gets to third-and-25 or more, the announcers will say, without a doubt, "I don't think there's a play in the playbook for third-and-25." Then they laugh like it's the funniest, most original thing ever.

ElvisL1ves
11-24-2003, 09:32 AM
NoClueBoy, your memory is accurate - there were 2 changes of possession on that play, creating an automatic first down regardless of the previous line of scrimmage.

Also, the line of scrimmage is at the nose of the ball. Since the tail of the ball has to be outside the goal line (or else it's a safety, touchdown, or touchback), and the ball is between 11 and 11.25 inches long, the longest possible play is 100 yards minus 11 inches minus epsilon.

While we're sharing anecdotes, in a high school game I saw last year, the visitors ran a running play at third and goal from the 3, and got called for holding (10 yards). The kid who did it bitched at the ref and got 15 more for unsportsmanlike conduct. Another kid on the bench bitched at the ref for that, flag, 15 more before the coach got everyone reminded that a player's second UC penalty is an automatic ejection and suspension from the next game, too. "Third and goal from the 43" is a hilarious thing to hear over the PA - you shoulda been there. (They punted, btw).

Doomtrain
11-24-2003, 09:57 AM
Originally posted by nineiron
One thing is sure, though. If it ever gets to third-and-25 or more, the announcers will say, without a doubt, "I don't think there's a play in the playbook for third-and-25." Then they laugh like it's the funniest, most original thing ever.

And then the team will give up, run a draw play for 2 yards, and punt, while the announcer pontificates on how "Punting is the only thing you can do in that situation."

swansont
11-24-2003, 10:03 AM
Originally posted by asomihite
I just did a search for this, but to no avail. I think the most yards needed for a first down in the NFL might have been the result of a game in which Bob Griese (while trying to elude a pass rush) scrambled and kept running back in what ended up being the all-time greatest loss of yards in a single play. Of course I unfortunately can't remember how many yards this was.


I think you're referring to a play in SB VI against the Cowboys. It was a 29-yard loss. That may "only" be a super bowl record, though. A quick search only turned up nothing more definitive.

AncientHumanoid
11-24-2003, 10:04 AM
Ah..., I get it. Even if the ball is several ball lengths inside the opponent's eleven yard line, resulting in needing to get the point of the ball several ball lengths inside the one for a first down, it's still officially listed as "1st and 10 on the 11." And if the minimum to get the 1st is gained, it would officially be called as "1st and Goal on the 1." But the announcers would say, "Inside the 1," or "Inside the 11."

Right? Because the official wording doesn't allow for yard fractions...? Sounds ggod to me. I'm glad someone (or two) clued us in on that. Makes complete sense.

vibrotronica
11-24-2003, 10:18 AM
Witness, Dopers, the course of great sports minds hashing out a problem that others did not even know existed!

According to Beagle's cite from Fayetteville Online's sports Answer Man, the record for the 21st century belongs to the Philadelphia Eagles: 2nd and 48 from their own 16 yard line. Opponent is not specified. (My Vols tied for 6th in the roll of infamy with a 3rd and 39 vs. Miami this year. They went on to win that game.) Props to Beagle for his mad Google skillz.

So now we have a number to beat. Does anyone have any documented situations worse than the Eagles 2nd and 48?

aerodave
11-24-2003, 02:43 PM
Behold...a very long first down. Very recently, I might add.

Two Saturdays ago, my beloved WVU Mountaineers were battling the hated Pitt Panthers in the 96th Backyard Brawl.

Pitt had a bad time with penalties during the 3rd quarter, and here is a quick play-by-play (http://www.sportsline.com/collegefootball/gamecenter/playbyplay/NCAAF_20031115_PITT@WV) of part of that quarter:

Pittsburgh Panthers at 10:27
1-20-PITT45 (10:27) Jawan Walker rushed for 3 yards. PITT was penalized 10 yards.
1-17-PITT38 (10:27) PITT was penalized 10 yards.
1-27-PITT28 (9:56) PITT was penalized 5 yards.
1-32-PITT23

So they ended up 1st and 32 before they ever got to 2nd down. That's probably not a record, but it's pretty respectable. You're talking about first down, and needing a full third of the field to get another. Sucks to be them.

I've seen 3rd and 20- or 30-something often enough. But 1st and 32?! I had to laugh.

zut
11-24-2003, 03:28 PM
Well, Googling "third and 49", "third and 50" etc, etc I got the following:

First and 48 (http://www.salisburypost.com/2000nov/110500i.htm) by Mars Hill College vs. Catawba, 11/4/00.
First and 43 (http://osubeavers.ocsn.com/sports/m-footbl/recaps/112298aaa.html) by Oregon vs. Oregon St, 11/20/98.

Second and 61 (http://www.madison.com/captimes/sports/preps/57612.php) during a Wisconsin(?) high school game.

Third and 67 (http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/highschool/sfl-1ardp22nov22,0,5606451.story?coll=sfla-highschool-headlines) during a Florida high school football game.
Third and 57 (http://www.sptimes.com/News/100100/Sports/Bullied.shtml) by the Florida Gators vs. Mississippi State, 9/30/00.

Fourth and 69 (http://www.sptimes.com/News/090200/Sports/Tarpon_Springs_sloshe.shtml) during another Florida high school football game.
Fourth and 63 (http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/football/cowboys/classic/0210txstadopens.htm) by the Patriots vs. Cowboys, 10/23/71.

This isn't very comprehensive, but it does establish numbers to beat.

Jake4
11-24-2003, 04:02 PM
Commendable search, zut. Good job.

shelbo
11-24-2003, 04:17 PM
That is a nice find zut, and for now I am going to accept 4th and 63 as the longest yardage situation in a professional football game, N.E. Pats v. Dallas Cowboys, October 23, 1971.

BobT
11-24-2003, 05:11 PM
Originally posted by NoClueBoy
Ah..., I get it. Even if the ball is several ball lengths inside the opponent's eleven yard line, resulting in needing to get the point of the ball several ball lengths inside the one for a first down, it's still officially listed as "1st and 10 on the 11." And if the minimum to get the 1st is gained, it would officially be called as "1st and Goal on the 1." But the announcers would say, "Inside the 1," or "Inside the 11."

Right? Because the official wording doesn't allow for yard fractions...? Sounds ggod to me. I'm glad someone (or two) clued us in on that. Makes complete sense.

When it comes to the field, there are only integers in football. The rule of thumb is that the yard "line" the ball is on is the last one that the ball has completely passed over.

EXCEPT, in situations where the ball has to be on another yard line so the math can add up. Such as the ball being on the 11 yard line even though it's just an inch outside the 10. If it were an inch outside the 20, it would be on the 20. But if it's an inch outside the 10, it's on the 11.

And there are situations where you put the ball on the "wrong" yard line in cases where it's "inches" to go.

Freddy the Pig
11-24-2003, 07:01 PM
Originally posted by BobT
Actually, if you are going to use 1st and a number, the limit is 1st and 98. You can't be 1st and 99. You can only be as far back as your own yard line. If if it were 1st and 99, the line to gain would be the goal line and it would just be 1st and Goal.
But surely, a long goal-to-go situation is within the spirit of the OP. And in fact, scoring a touchdown via goal-to-go counts as a statistical first down in pro football, although not in college.

If the most yards to gain happened to occur in a goal-to-go series, I would certainly accept that as the "most yards ever required for a first down". Ergo, 99 is a possibility.

BobT
11-24-2003, 08:34 PM
I don't think a touchdown counts for a first down in pro football in any circumstance.

But college football does, unless it's a goal to go situation.

Duke
11-24-2003, 08:38 PM
Originally posted by zut
Fourth and 69 (http://www.sptimes.com/News/090200/Sports/Tarpon_Springs_sloshe.shtml) during another Florida high school football game. The funniest thing about this one is that, following the punt, the other team had a fourth-and-39 coming back.

Good work, zut.

Freddy the Pig
11-25-2003, 08:44 AM
Originally posted by BobT
I don't think a touchdown counts for a first down in pro football in any circumstance. Yes, in NFL football any touchdown from scrimmage counts as a first down. You can see this in the play-by-play reporting (http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/gamebook/NFL_20031124_NYG@TB). The first downs are tracked off to the right, by rushing (R), passing (P), or penalty (X). Scroll down to Tampa Bay's offensive touchdown and notice the little R7 off to the right.

Notice also that the NFL lists "first and goal from the three" as "first and three from the three" (1-3-NYG3)--two different ways to say the same thing.

vibrotronica
11-25-2003, 10:00 AM
Great job! Thank you, zut!

So as of now the all-time record belongs to the Tarpon Springs Sprongers (led by "big play quaterback Achilleas Houllis") who won their September 1, 2000 game against arch rival East Lake despite experiencing a 4th and 69.

The college record, 3rd and 57, belongs to Steve Spurrier's 2000 Florida Gators. Predictably, the sportswriter said "even Spurrier doesn't have a play for that."

And as Shelbo noted, the Patriots have set a very high (low?) bar for the NFL with a 4th and 63.

zut
11-25-2003, 10:31 AM
Heh. Not so fast Subbing "4th" for "fourth", I found:

Fourth and 70 (http://www.uticaod.com/archive/2002/10/26/sports/8173.html): New York high school playoffs.

BobT
11-25-2003, 11:19 AM
Originally posted by jklann
Yes, in NFL football any touchdown from scrimmage counts as a first down. You can see this in the play-by-play reporting (http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/gamebook/NFL_20031124_NYG@TB). The first downs are tracked off to the right, by rushing (R), passing (P), or penalty (X). Scroll down to Tampa Bay's offensive touchdown and notice the little R7 off to the right.

Notice also that the NFL lists "first and goal from the three" as "first and three from the three" (1-3-NYG3)--two different ways to say the same thing.

Thanks for the link. I suppose the NFL has changed that scoring convention. It makes more sense actually.

vibrotronica
11-25-2003, 12:54 PM
The Fowler Falcons nose into the lead with a 4th and 70--a mark set just this October. Things were looking good for them until an 18-yard touchdown run was nullified by a holding penalty. Then four penalties in three plays and what must have been a huge sack by Whitesboro Warriors lineman Mike Babula catapulted them into the record books.

bbonden
11-25-2003, 01:19 PM
I can't find a cite through google, but I recall a play in approximately 1989 in which the Miami Hurricanes converted a third-and-49 against Penn State. Randall Hill was the receiver, I think.