Would you rather kick a field goal or score a touchdown? Under today’s rules, I am sure that we would take the touchdown anytime. However, that was not always the case. Football, as we know it today, is a blend of soccer and rugby. In 1860, football was played on a regular basis by secondary schools in the Boston area. The first intercollegiate football game was played in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton. At that time, a team was composed of fifteen players, nine on the rush line, one quarterback, two halfbacks, one three-quarterback, and two fullbacks. The quarterback would receive the ball from the “center” and was required to pass the ball either backwards or laterally to one of his teammates. He was prohibited from running with the ball. What a sharp difference from today’s game featuring the “mobile” quarterback in the “empty backfield.”
Until 1897, a “goal from the field” was worth five points while a touchdown was worth only four points. From 1885 until 1897, “intentional offside or slugging” would result in your opponent receiving one or two points. Our current schedule of scoring has basically remained the same since 1909 except for a change in 1958 to allow one or two points for the “try” after a touchdown.
In the last column, we looked at the timing rule. Clock management is very important to the game. The coaches must make good use of the three times out that they are afforded each half. I am sure that we have seen games where poor clock management has resulted in a team not being able to get in one more play before the half or the game ends. A new wrinkle with respect to clock management came about when the rules allowed the quarterback to “spike” the ball to stop the clock. This is a way for a team to trade a down for some time. The quarterback must “immediately” after receiving a direct hand-to-hand snap throw the ball forward to the ground. Note that this cannot be done in a so-called shotgun formation.
The period must be extended by an un-timed down if during the last timed down of the period any of the following occur. 1.) There was a foul by either team and the penalty is accepted. 2.) There was a double foul. 3.) There was an inadvertent whistle. Or 4.) If a touchdown is scored, the try is an extension of the period. There are exceptions to extending period for certain fouls. Let’s sat that Team A, trailing by five points, has a first down on Team B’s 20 yard line with one second left on the clock. The quarterback takes the snap and runs around the right side. As he approaches the five-yard line, Team B players begin to tackle him. As he is being tackled at the five-yard line, he pitches the ball forward to a teammate who advances into the end zone. If Team B declines the penalty for an illegal forward pass, Team A will score a touchdown. If team B accepts the penalty for the illegal forward pass, Team A will have second down at the ten yard line with an un-timed down. By committing a foul, team A has gained an advantage. Rules changes this year prohibit the extension of a period if the “loss of down” is part of the penalty. In the example just cited, the period will not be extended because the penalty carries a “loss of down” as part of the penalty. The game is over and team B will win. Rules are written to prevent a team from gaining an advantage by violating the rules.
Next week we’ll take a look at some of the player equipment requirements.