Has anyone ever botched the kneel-down in pro (or televised college) football? I’m referring to the tactic of the leading team kneeling the ball to kill time to run the clock to zero. Fumbling the snap would be an example, or a false start. What I’m really looking for would be a mistake on a kneel-down that resulted in the opposing team getting the ball back, or saving time that led to a comeback.
There’s this, of course, which lead to a change in how teams think about that play.
How about a kneel down that resulted in an injury to the QB? Bob Davie was notorious at Notre Dame for being one of the worst clock management coaches of all time. Didn’t know when to call timeouts, wouldn’t call for a spiked ball when necessary, could not condition his players to be aware of the clock, etc.
So one year, the Irish were 8-1, going into a game against LSU. Pretty tough game, the score was really close throughout. The Irish finally have the lead late in the 4th quarter, stop LSU, and need to burn the clock. Well - they were going too fast, and had left too much time on the clock. So for 3rd down, Davie has the QB Jarious Jackson take the snap and run around like a chicken to burn those extra seconds off. He got injured on the play, and was out for the next game - an important matchup against USC that they lost.
It was on 4th down, and Jackson had to run backward to the end zone to take an intentional safety. Of course, the conventional call in that situation is to snap the ball to the punter and let him take the safety, with or without preliminary stalling, which would be safer.
The Giants/Eagles play was a handoff. I have never seen any documentation of any case at any level of football in which a team has botched a straightforward kneel-down. I don’t believe such a play has ever happened.
Well, it was that play that directly led to the creation of the kneel-down play, complete with one running back set 8-10 yards behind the line of scrimmage, just in case the ball gets away.
That’s right - I remember us punting the next play, which would have happened after a safety.
Why the free kick instead of the punt? Was the field position difference that much better?
In that case I’d give two points just to avoid the possibility of a blocked punt.
I don’t know what the field position was during that Notre Dame play, but, from a punt-distance standpoint, a free kick (from the 20, with the punter standing right on the 20 as he punts) would be about the same as an actual punt with the line of scrimmage at the 30…with the advantage of there being no possibility of the punt being blocked.
Also the QB can sometimes run off a bunch of time before giving up the safety. The Saints did this to the Chargers last year at the end of the London game.
Zac Robinson at OSU will do this too. Kneel down formation - he’ll take the snap and just step back a few yards and wait for somebody to actually make any move at all towards going through/around the o-line to go down. Quite nice when it’s close to being on the short side of being able to run out the clock.
Probably not exactly what you’re looking for, but: Texas Tech tried to “fake” a kneel earlier this year against Texas, attempting a trick play to score in the closing seconds of the first half. The refs blew the play dead, citing a rule that simulating putting the knee on the ground results in a dead ball. Time, which could have been used by Tech to take another stab at it, then ran out.
I can’t remember if this play happened on a kneel-down or if they were actually running a normal play. In 1998, Arkansas was leading Tennessee and only had to run out the clock for about one more minute in order to win the game. However, the Arkansas QB stumbled, dropped the ball, and Tennessee recovered the fumble. They scored a couple plays later to win the game. If this freak play hadn’t happened, Tennessee never would have won the national championship that year.
What specific rules are involved with this type of play?
In the case of the one I cited, the rule came from the NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations, 2009-2010 (warning: PDF). The specific rule is in Rule 4-1, Article 3 (o). The text reads:
And you can understand why; when it looks like a QB is taking a knee, defensive players stop rushing, because they expect to be penalized if they touch him. Everyone relaxes, and if the play continues, players could be hit without being prepared for it, increasing the possibility of injury. So, “simulated” knees are not allowed, the ball is dead.