Pay attention boys and girls, class is in session.
True-or-false question: The NFL, the highest level of football, has the best of everything.
Yes, it has the best of everything — players, ratings, revenue and more. But, when it comes to all of the rules, it doesn’t.
The NCAA has the better rule on pass interference. It’s a rule I’ve said many times that the NFL should adopt.
There are so many variables to making a pass-interference call, it’s one of the toughest for officials to make — at any level.
First, you have to officiate both offense and defense on the same play. Then you have to determine whether or not the pass is catchable. You have to determine if the contact impedes an eligible opponent from an opportunity to make the catch, all of this while usually on the run.
It’s no secret that the enforcement of the pass-interference penalty in the NFL is one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s just not equitable. The NCAA has it right. It’s a 15-yard maximum penalty, either offensively or defensively.
The argument in the NFL has been that if you adopt the NCAA rules, defenders will simply tackle receivers when they are beaten. Well, that’s not the case and the NCAA clearly proves it. When defensive players are close enough to commit pass interference, they try to make the play and they don’t tackle opponents. I have always felt that was a bogus argument.
Now it’s the NFL’s turn to pay attention. I’m going to take two examples of pass interference — one offensive and one defensive — from Saturday and Week 8 of the college football season.
Example No. 1 happened in Kansas State’s impressive 55-14 win at West Virginia.
Here was the situation: Kansas State had the ball, first-and-10 at the West Virginia 25-yard line with 4:21 left in the first quarter. Kansas State led 3-0. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein attempted a 25-yard pass to Chris Harper that was incomplete. But WVU’s Ishmael Banks was called for defensive pass interference in the end zone.
This was clearly defensive pass interference on Harper, who did not make a legitimate play on the ball. This emphasized my point perfectly. Instead of a 24-yard penalty, which it would have been in the NFL, putting the ball on the 1-yard line, it was a 15-yard penalty which placed the ball at the 10.
Example No. 2 took place during Stanford’s 21-3 victory over Cal. Here was the situation: Stanford had the ball, first-and-10 at the Cal 47-yard line with 58 seconds left in the second quarter. Stanford led 21-3. Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes completed a 35-yard pass to Drew Terrell. However, Terrell was called for offensive pass interference against Steve Williams.
It was clearly offensive pass interference. Williams was looking back at the ball when Terrell grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled Williams to the ground while making the catch. What left me incredulous about the play is that Stanford coach David Shaw made a big issue of it being an incorrect call, but clearly it wasn’t.
Just like the defensive pass-interference call above, this penalty was 15 yards from the previous spot, which to me, makes the penalty yardage equitable for both offense and defense.
That alone, makes it a much more fair rule than the NFL’s. Officials have it tough enough as it is and to have a pass-interference call result in a possible 40- or 50-yard penalty, like it can in the NFL, just isn’t right.
Here’s a look a few other interesting calls from Saturday:
THE GAME: Florida State at Miami
THE SITUATION: Florida State had the ball, third-and-3 from the FSU 42-yard line with 5:58 left in the first quarter. Miami led 10-0.
THE PLAY: Seminoles quarterback EJ Manuel completed a 15-yard pass to Chris Thompson for a first down. A fan ran out onto the field during the play, but didn’t affect the result.
MY TAKE: Is there a doctor in the house? That man needed some help. He was yelling “I’m on the field” as he ran, well, onto the field. Now, he’s probably in jail.
The rule book says that it is an “unfair act” if while the ball is in play, any person other than a player or an official interferes in any way with the ball, player or an official. The penalty says that the referee may take any action he considers equitable, which includes directing that the down be repeated, including awarding a score, or suspending or forfeiting the game.
The referee made a wise decision here by allowing the play to run and giving the ball to Thompson, where he ran out of bounds. In reality, this ill-advised fan did not have an effect on the play. It does go to show, you have to be prepared for anything.
THE GAME: South Carolina at Florida
THE SITUATION: Florida had the ball, first-and-10 at the South Carolina 41-yard line with 14 seconds left in the first quarter. Florida led 7-3.
THE PLAY: Florida QB Jeff Driskel completed a 41-yard pass to Omarius Hines for a touchdown. However, a chop block was called on both Mike Gillislee and Jon Halapio against South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, nullifying the score.
MY TAKE: This was a great call by the line judge, who was located at the bottom of the television screen. Officials use the terminology “keys” prior to a play. Essentially that means that each official, with the exception of the referee and umpire, has a designated offensive player who he is responsible for. The line judge, in this case, had Gillislee as his primary key and he had a clear look of him going low, while Clowney was engaged high by Halapio. This was a classic chop block.
It fascinates me how Florida coach Will Muschamp screamed bloody murder from the sideline, insinuating it was a bad call. That seems to be a trend that I’m seeing more of — coaches yelling about calls that actually turn out to be correct.
THE GAME: Purdue at Ohio State
THE SITUATION: Ohio State had the ball, second-and-5 from the Ohio State 6-yard line with 10:20 left in the fourth quarter. Purdue led 20-14.
THE PLAY: Ohio State QB Kenny Guiton scrambled for 6 yards and a first down. However, tight end Jeff Heuerman was called for a block in the back on Purdue’s Robert Maci in the end zone and a safety was called.
MY TAKE: This was an excellent call by the umpire, who saw Heuerman block Maci in the back in the end zone, which created the safety. Lots of people on Twitter did not think that this was a good call because the block was in the tackle box. Well, it wasn’t.
In college, “the blocking zone” is defined as the area that encompasses 5 yards laterally from each side of the middle lineman and 3 yards on either side of the line of scrimmage. A block in the back in this blocking zone would normally not be a foul, but since this block occurred 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage and was not in the zone, it was a penalty.