Best designed punt return, trick play I've seen in a long time.


Punt returner never signaled a fair catch.
Whistle hadn’t blown. Psst, it’s a live ball. Fake out and a TD

That’s why I love college sports. Never know what these coaches will come up with.

Very gutsy. He could have easily been crushed.

It’ll definitely put the Ark defenders on their toes going forward. But they can’t get carried away.

Tackling a punt returner on a signaled fair catch is a penalty.

It can be tricky seeing the punt returner signal.

Your link didn’t work for me but it’s easy to find elsewhere. Crazy!

Why am I thinking the name in the playbook might be “Concussion Protocol?” If the coverage isn’t fooled…OWWWW.

Me either, it worked here:

Risky in the long term isn’t it? The whole point of a fair catch is to prevent injury. Pretending to fair catch is sort of exploiting a rule designed for player safety. Fun to watch, but the consequences might not be so fun.

I expect that the NCAA will crack down on this in some fashion quickly. It encourages a punt defense not to give the benefit of the doubt to the receiver. That has the potential for serious injury. In essence, the receiver gave up playing; he should have been considered down at that point.

If he’d actually signaled for a fair catch, the play would have blown dead once he successfully caught the ball. And, at least in the NFL (I’m not sure about the NCAA), if he’d then tried to run with it, it would have been a penalty.

I’ve seen similar plays in other sports, including the hidden-ball play in baseball, in which a player takes advantage of other players assuming a certain routine, and not paying attention. On this play, the coverage players never heard a whistle, they just assumed.

And, yes, it probably does invite greater chance of injury, and will likely be quickly addressed by a new rule.

Gutsy, for sure.

OTOH… how about if the defense upon an “apparent” fair catch stops charging “for the kill” *but *does *not *stand down and get out of the way until they are positive they hear the whistle or the receiver does something

I have seen players just touch the punt returner. That contact should rule the ball dead.

Or as you mentioned at least block his path until the referee confirms the play is dead.

I watched the coach’s post game presser. They had designed and practiced this trick play.

North Texas State is in the USA conference and were playing a SEC team. That TD could have made all the difference in the outcome of a tough game.

Instead, Arkansas sucked and got blown out. North Texas should have saved the trick play should have been saved for game that was closer.

One problem is, it looked like the receiver was waving teammates away, and some of the kicking team players may have thought that was a fair catch signal. (Tip: if it’s not (a) just one hand, (b) over the head, and © waved from side to side, it’s not a fair catch signal.) I have seen a few officials call a wave-off signal as an invalid fair catch signal as well.

Then again, you can teach the players to “play the whistle” all you want, but the minute one of them gets called for a late hit because they couldn’t stop in time after a legitimate fair catch, that goes out the window.

I have only a duffer’s knowledge of football - how exactly would a genuine fair catch signal have looked? What I saw him do was king of jump up and down in place twice, and then everyone walked slowly away from him. What should the defenders have been looking for to make sure it was a fair catch?

Here is an example. Skip to 40 seconds in the video.

what rule change can prevent this?

Any rule can be changed. They could eliminate the option for a run on the punt return. Every punt return would be a fair catch.

But why?

Fake punt returns have been tried for decades. They rarely work. It’s not easy to fool the kicking team.

The penalty for a late hit on a punt returner is severe. The defense is trained not to tackle the punt returner unless he’s running with the ball.

Punt returns are a big element of the game. Shifting field position or even a TD.

You can also have a fake punt.

The punter takes the snap and runs with it or passes it. It’s potentially a first down if the ball gets to the marker. Or a TD.

There’s a lot of strategy in football. It’s a lot more than guys tackling each other.

Or, more realistically, they could make a rule that that sort of deception (i.e., playing possum to simulate a fair catch) is unsportsmanlike conduct.

Or more simply if the returner appears to give up an attempt to move forward the ref could blow the play dead.

This. This type of trick play is taking advantage of a rule specifically designed to protect players and if it’s not followed in good faith it puts players at risk.
I can totally imagine the next team they play thinking “I’d rather get a penalty than get burned on TV so I’m hitting the shit outta this guy”