Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

04 Jan 2013

Officiating: The One-Point Safety

2013 Fiesta Bowl
Oregon Ducks 31 at Kansas State Wildcats 10
One-Point Try after Touchdown by Oregon, 8:03 of Q3

Alejandro Maldonado Kick Blocked, Recovered By Kansas State For 1-Point Safety For Oregon

There's nothing quite like a play the referee refers to as "unusual." Here, the Oregon Ducks attempted a one-point try following a touchdown (commonly referred to as the "extra point"). In an amazing display of blocking ineptitude, the snapper somehow ends up responsible for two rushers, one of whom breezes by and gets both hands on the ball. The ball flies up into the air and a defender catches it in the air. Seeing no running room in front, he retreats roughly two yards, into his own end zone, and attempts a return from there (even trying to use the side judge as a pick).

Oregon's special teams are having none of this, and the holder of all players rushes in and attempts a tackle in the end zone. The ball carrier attempts to lateral the ball to a teammate, who drops it. The receiver eventually recovers in the end zone and is tackled by an Oregon player.

There are two interesting facets to this play: Referee Ron Cherry's description of the ball being "declared dead by the defense" in the end zone, and the peculiar NCAA rules that allow for a one-point safety in this situation.

I think Cherry was vague on the actual reason the ball was dead because the officiating team didn't stick with the play well enough. There are multiple possible rulings;

1. The ball carrier was down by contact after retreating into his end zone, as his knee is apparently down before he throws the ball;
2. The "lateral" was actually an illegal forward pass in the end zone, which was not flagged. A penalty in the end zone of the team in possession is a safety by rule;
3. The player recovering the loose ball in the end zone was tackled.

I should note that scenario 2 is a somewhat strange situation in that most yardage penalties on a try after a change of possession are declined by rule. Fortunately for Cherry (and somewhat unfortunately for us), scenarios 1 and 2 are both perfectly valid reasons to rule the ball dead in the end zone. However, Rule 8-3-2-d-3 provides the try ends if "an accepted penalty results in a score." Considering the explicit language in 8-3-2-d-3 allowing for acceptable of a penalty that results in a score versus the vague language automatically declining a set of yardage penalties in 8-4-a, it seems clear that the rulesmakers wanted to allow for situations like this one.

Those readers more familiar with NFL or high school football might be perplexed by the idea of a one-point play for either team on a scrimmage kick try. The NCAA has a unique approach to tries (both one- and two-point varieties) in that they are treated as "an opportunity for either team to score one or two points while the game clock is stopped after a touchdown" (Rule 8-3-2). Compare this to the NFL rules, which provide that "the scoring team is awarded a Try in an attempt to score one or two additional points during one additional scrimmage down," and that "if the defense gains possession, the ball is dead immediately" (Rules 11-3-1 and 11-3-2-c). The National Federation of High Schools goes one further and additionally provides that a scrimmage kick try is dead once the ball breaks the plane of the end zone.

If this play was a safety, however, why were the Ducks only awarded one point, and why wasn't Kansas State required to kick to Oregon as they would after a normal safety? As for the points, Rule 8-3-1 requires that "points shall be scored according to the point values in Rule 8-1-1 if the try results in what would be a touchdown, safety or field goal under rules governing play at other times." The scoring rules for tries therefore overrides the normal scoring rules. Since the try was actually kicked, it was a one-point try and therefore any scoring by either team is awarded one point.

Congratulations to Cherry and his crew for handling a bizarre situation with skill and poise on national television, even if his description was a bit vague. Here's video of both the play and Cherry's description.

Posted by: Mike Kurtz on 04 Jan 2013

29 comments, Last at 13 Jan 2013, 6:24am by BigCheese

Comments

1
by DaveSmith_1 (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2013 - 5:41pm

"Since the try was actually kicked, it was a one-point try and therefore any scoring by either team is awarded one point."

I'm not sure if this statement is incorrect, the rule has changed since 2005, or if it was ruled incorrectly previously. Orlando Scandrick returned a blocked PAT in the 2005 Boise State @ Hawaii game and BSU was awarded 2 points.

http://espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=252740062

2
by Dean :: Fri, 01/04/2013 - 5:55pm

In college, you used to be able to score a two point conversion on defense by scoring a TD 98 yards the other way via a turnover or a blocked kick, but this rule was recently changed.

13
by zlionsfan :: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 10:32pm

I don't believe that is correct. The copy I have of the 2012 NCAA rules indicates the following ... note that it specifically mentions "the opportunity for either team to score one or two points."

RULE 8
Scoring
SECTION 1. Value of Scores
Scoring Plays
ARTICLE 1. The point value of scoring plays shall be:
Touchdown — 6 Points
Field Goal — 3 Points
Safety (points awarded to opponent) — 2 Points
Successful Try:
Touchdown — 2 Points
Field Goal or Safety — 1 Point

SECTION 3. Try Down
How Scored
ARTICLE 1. The point or points shall be scored according to the point
values in Rule 8-1-1 if the try results in what would be a touchdown, safety
FR-78 Rule 8 / Scoring
(Exception: Rule 8-3-4-a) or field goal under rules governing play at other
times (A.R. 8-3-1-I-II; A.R. 8-3-2-I-III and VI; and A.R. 10-2-5-X-XV).

Opportunity to Score
ARTICLE 2. A try is an opportunity for either team to score one or two points
while the game clock is stopped after a touchdown. It is a special interval in the
game which, for purposes of penalty enforcement only, includes both a down
and the "ready" period that precedes it.

3
by Dean :: Fri, 01/04/2013 - 5:58pm

And on a side note, since the kicking team scores the point on this play, and they'd have to score a TD in order to be in position to score the extra point, it's still technically impossible for a team to end up with a final score of 1. But it's a nice double ambush.

4
by RLB (not verified) :: Fri, 01/04/2013 - 6:39pm

But it would also be possible for the defending team to score one point by returning a blocked kick into the endzone. So it would be possible for a team to end up with a final score of 1.

5
by Splattered :: Fri, 01/04/2013 - 11:07pm

Well, the defense could intercept a 2-point try, return it to the opposing 5, fumble into the endzone, and tackle the offense after recovering there. I *believe* that would be a 1-point safety to the defense.

6
by Wilsonia (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 12:05am

If the offense recovers that fumble by the defense in the endzone and are downed there there is no score, it's equivalent to a touchback. The offense would need to somehow establish possession outside their endzone then retreat before being downed.

A someone what more straightforward way would be a monster of a high snap on the try that rolls all the way back out of the kicking team's endzone. That's a 1pt safety for the defense.

14
by zlionsfan :: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 10:38pm

To fix the touchback scenario, I think the impetus would have to be provided by the recovering player, not by the fumble: the defense would have to fumble the ball close to, but not into, the offense's end zone; it would have to be recovered by the offense; and, after establishing possession outside the end zone, the recovering player would have to retreat on his own into the end zone and not make it back out, or commit some kind of penalty himself in his own end zone (kicking or batting the ball illegally, for example).

28
by BigCheese :: Sun, 01/13/2013 - 6:20am

Or simply step out of bounds in the end zone...

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

7
by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 12:13am

Beleiee Penn state beat Inaida hosiers 13-2 with Indiana points coming on retujn after block Of PAT.

Game happen maybe 5-8 years ago

Also one time conversion return arguably key play in Virgjab Tech Gobblers vs Syracuse Orangemen game ealrtn2000s.

8
by Zac :: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 9:13am

According to college football reference, there have been 15 instances of teams finishing the game with 2 points since 2000. http://cfbref.com/tiny/INWMB . Neither Penn State nor Indiana is one of the teams involved.

Further, according to them Penn State has played Indiana 16 times (all since joining the Big Ten in 1993). They are 16-0 against them, but Indiana has scored at least 7 points in each matchup. http://cfbref.com/tiny/LLcd0

10
by Raiderjoe :: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 3:33pm

Good checling man. Am now thinking it was Illinois vs Penn st

15
by zlionsfan :: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 10:39pm

How about Illinois vs. Ohio State in 2005? From the list above, that game was 40-2, with Illinois getting its only points on a defensive two-point conversion.

17
by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 01/06/2013 - 12:50am

Yep that is game. Time period is rigjht.

Those BIG temMas get confusing especially the I ones when you arrre tired Nd drinking. Ohio state Penn state ahh same school. Remember big powerhouse tem spanking I school

Edit- looked at link by poster earlier rin thread. Yes that is games. Ohio st vs Illinois. Looked at noxscore. llinoibqb must've had hangover from Rfiday night. Remember losing team got destroyed and only the 2 pointer was a good play. Whole rest of game team played like one leggegsb squirrels trying to find nuts.

18
by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 01/06/2013 - 12:55am

13-2 score thinking of was Oklahoam vs somebody

And Penn stats had 6-4 win vs Iowa around same time (maybe third weekend October 2004)).

So that waht is was. Bebcahauss remember tLkig to friend circa 2006 about crazoeest college scores ever Nd 13-2 and 6-4 mentioned. Also wvu vs Ruftgers game 80-7 came up and then that 2 point score game by Illinois when tema played like porcupine urine for entire game except for one freaky play

19
by dbostedo :: Sun, 01/06/2013 - 12:58am

But I like that you called Virginia Tech "the gobblers"... I'm guessing a lot people don't know that their other older official name is The Fighting Gobblers

20
by Eddo :: Sun, 01/06/2013 - 1:06pm

Oklahoma defeated Florida State 13-2 in the 2000 BCS Championship game (January 3, 2001). http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/schools/oklahoma/2000-schedule.html (see the last row of the schedule and results table; for some reason, Sports-Reference doesn't have a box score for that game).

23
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 4:00pm

You're thinking of the 2007 ACC title game. VT blocked and returned an XP in the second quarter, to keep it a one-score game (16-9 instead of 17-7). It was VT's (and Duane Brown's) second blocked kick of the half.

After getting their asses kicked all game to that point, VT wouldn't let BC score again.

24
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 7:05pm

No. Games was before2007 and was at Orange dome.

25
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 7:16pm

Fond it. November 14 1998 game. Sorry was mistaken abiut yr. Thought early 00s but was latte 90s.

Vr 26, syracsus 28. Tech return syeacuse cpversion try for 2 pts of own follwig Syracuse TD. Made score tech 23, Syracuse 22 at time.
Read final pagaoragps-

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/college/scoreboards/1998/11/14...

26
by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 7:24pm

Also was oen in inddpendince bowl played in snowstorm in Shreveport about dozen yrs ago.
Tamu vs Miss state.

Gerta game. Tamu xp try OT bloxked b y bulldogs. A DB return for 2 pts. This happened in overtime

27
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/08/2013 - 2:28pm

That game.

NCAA Football had that as one of the 'play the finish' games for a couple of years. If I recall correctly, Michael Vick took his official visit to Syracuse that week, hosted by Donovan McNabb.

9
by Abu Dhabi Dabblers (not verified) :: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 11:02am

In looking at the video -
and maybe this is more for Ben Muth -
But the end of the play almost has the offensive lineman able to fall on the ball.

Does that mean it would have been a successful conversion and the guy would have been listed with his one point?

I'm thinking that would have been one of the more cool lines for a lineman to have (rather than just a tackle). It does show hustle.

11
by MJK :: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 5:00pm

This is cool. I've actually read about this before, because it's an interesting trivia question--how is it possible to score 1 point in football other than via the extra point kick?

Basically, in college rules (not NFL, unfortunately), after a TD, either team can score either 1 or 2 points on the ensuing "try" in one of five different ways. The ball is spotted at the 2 for one untimed down, with the team that just scored having possession and being on offense.

1. Offense kicks through the uprights: Offense scores 1 point

2. Offense runs or passes for a TD: Offense scores 2 points

3. Defense gains possession of the ball, voluntarily enters their own endzone and is tackled or commits a penalty there: Defensive safety, offense scores 1 point

4. Defense gains possession and returns the ball all the way to the offenses endzone: Defense scores two points

5. Offense somehow manages to get tackled or score a penalty in their own endzone (98 yards away!): Offensive safety, defense scores 1 point.

Case 1 and 2 is what everyone is familiar with. Case 3 is what happened here. To my knowledge, it has only happened once before, in a game between Texas and Texas A&M. Longhorns scored a TD, and the Aggies somehow got possession (don't remember if it was a blocked kick or a 2 point attempt that went awry) and were tackled in their own endzone, giving the Longhorns one point (defensive safety). If that is the only case, then this would be only the second time it's occurred.

Case 5 is the coolest, and is indeed a way that a team could score exactly 1 point. However, it has never happened. I think it *could* happen with a turnover, a defensive player returning it all the way back, but fumbling shy of the goal line, and then an offensive player recovering in their own endzone.

There *is* one other way for a team to score exactly 1 point. If a team officially forfeits a game, the official score is a 1-0 win for the non-forfeiting team.

16
by zlionsfan :: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 10:42pm

Case 5: see my explanation above. The offense would have to voluntarily enter their own end zone and be tackled or commit a penalty there.

Also, something I didn't add above, it would have to be only a penalty on the offense; offsetting fouls cancel the try and it is not replayed. Approved Ruling 8-3-4-III:

During a two-point try attempt, Team A is flagged for an illegal shift.
B21 recovers a fumble and on the return, B45 clips and A80 slugs an
opponent. B21 carries the ball across the goal line. RULING: A80 is
disqualified. The score does not count, the fouls offset, the down is not
repeated and the try is ended.

12
by jedmarshall :: Sat, 01/05/2013 - 6:25pm

I forget which week it was, but this situation was discussed in depth on Audibles one week after a team returned a 2 point conversion for a touch (obviously nullified dead ball because it was NFL).

29
by BigCheese :: Sun, 01/13/2013 - 6:24am

Don't rememeb the week.

Don't remember the team.

But sadly, I remember too well that it was against the Bears and Jay Cutler tried to tackle the returner....

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

21
by BigWoody (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 1:04am

What happens if the attempt had been a short field goal try instead of a point-after kick.? Does that result in a 1 point safety?

22
by Dean :: Mon, 01/07/2013 - 11:51am

Then it would be a 2 point safety.