The POP pass and the ineligible receiver downfield rule, a grumble

I don’t blame the folks at Roll Bama Roll for being peeved about this:

In the aftermath of Alabama’s loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, discussion has been rekindled around the POP pass and its exploitation of the ineligible receiver downfield rule. For those unfamiliar with the current rule, offensive linemen are allowed to be no more than three yards downfield at the time a forward pass is released. Having an arbitrary window like this makes it difficult for the officials to police, as the difference between three yards and four yards can be difficult to ascertain depending on the official’s angle. This inspired a failed rule proposal in the offseason to remove the three yard window and adopt the NFL rule, which allows linemen to advance no more than one yard before the pass is thrown. Proponents of spread offenses argued for better enforcement of the existing rule as opposed to a rule change, suggesting that such a rule change would take an exciting play out of college playbooks.

The rule may not be bullshit, but enforcement of it, as we all know, is close to a joke.  (So much for adding that eighth member to the officiating crew to better keep up with action on the field.)  So, if they’re not going to get serious about it on the field, what to do?

The article suggests expanding what can be reviewed by the replay official to include penalties dealing with time and space.  Eh, I’m not sure what college football needs is another reason to slow the game down.  Brian Cook offers a different approach:

… it might be better to do away with the rule altogether and just call offensive pass interference on any lineman who hits or impedes anyone other than a defensive lineman on a pass play beyond the line of scrimmage. That might be more enforceable—and the penalty would be much stiffer.

Interesting… but I’m not sure why officials would be any more willing to enforce this than the three-yard rule.  Plus – and I know this is nitpicking – in an age of multiple fronts with outside linebackers that jump back and forth between the first and second level, how do you decide whether someone is a lineman on a given pass play?

Bottom line is that it’s sad we’re at a point where we know enforcement of this rule has been a failure and yet nobody expects anything to be done about it.  Well played, Steve Shaw.

59 Comments

Filed under SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

59 responses to “The POP pass and the ineligible receiver downfield rule, a grumble

  1. ScoutDawg

    Yes, and reasonable enforcement of the rules of CFB, should have given UGA 59 points.

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  2. Cousin Eddie

    Why not place the 8th ref at the three yards past the line of scrimmage on the sidelines? He could tell then if a lineman passes him and flag it. Assuming it is really that big of a deal you feel it needed to be stopped.

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    • Otto

      That or make it reviewable by using a coach’s challenge.

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      • Macallanlover

        I heard several conversations about this rule yesterday on Sirius’ College Sports Channel, some initiated by callers, others by analysts. One of the suggestions was to make it a challenge option for coaches, the same as the QB being over the line. To a person, everyone felt they had to get this under control because it tipped the scales too far in the direction of the offense. One of the talking heads brought up that Alabama had two significant losses on national TV where that was a factor, the Ole Miss play at the end of the game this year and the same with Auburn in 2013. And they were right, both were memorable and both changed the course of the game…and neither was even close,, or a hard call.

        We added another official, enforce the rule or change it, some teams are using it deliberately as a part of their offense. This is not a mistake by the OL, they are teaching it .It will seem like a very big deal if we have to face a TCU, Baylor, Oregon, etc. and they use play that defy our defensive reads and beat us by using plays that violate the rules. Whether 1 or 3 yards, it needs to be called; defenses have too much slanted against them already, imo.

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          • Cousin Eddie

            I did not watch the Bama/Ole Miss Game but did see highlights, was Kelly across the line when he threw the pass when he rolled to his right and the DB came up and he hit the WR open for a TD? To me it looked very close, but it was not called (not that that means anything).

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            • JR

              initially it was called a penalty but they reviewed it and his whole body was in front of the line except his left (i think) foot which means it was an eligible pass.

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              • Russ

                …but they completely missed the lineman 5 yards down field.

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                • Rocket Dawg

                  Exactly. #70 on offense was a good 7-8 yards downfield. How the hell is a defense supposed to defend that?

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                • Macallanlover

                  Didn’t necessarily “miss it”, that is not part of the review. That was my comment above, coaches that spoke on that this week favor that being a challenge option, then it can be reviewed. Officials in the booth often see other fouls on replays (face masks, holding, etc.) but cannot rule on those offenses.

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  3. Brandon

    Difference between 3 and 4 yards… might be tough but that Ole Miss lineman was easily 6 yards past the LOS when Kelly threw that long TD pass on the play those guys are burned up about. It really is a joke how the refs pick and choose when to “enforce” this rule. Not even going into our fake punt against Auburn last year.

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    • Jeff Sanchez

      Hilarious that out of those two teams WE were the ones penalized for downfield. Actually, that’s SO UGA….

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    • Cojones

      You may have missed the Auburn guys who were 6 yds down, 4 yds down on the same play – and they looked back at the QB throwing the ball. Or am I getting mixed up by the dark tops and helmets?

      Question, what exactly is the point where linemen can be downfield blocking legitimately? After it leaves the QB’s hands and does that include handoffs for running plays?

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      • Sh3rl0ck

        Linemen can only be up to 3 yards past the LOS before the QB throws a forward pass beyond the LOS. After the pass has left the QBs hand, they have free range on the field. When an OL is past the three yards, the penalty call is “ineligible receiver down-field”. There is no limit to down-field block on running plays or passes behind the LOS

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  4. PatinDC

    Why can’t they just get of the rule and allow the linemen to block wherever? I don’t understand the purpose of the rule.

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    • James Stephenson

      The purpose is to help the defense. If the Lineman is 3 yards down the field, it has to be a run. They just need to go with the NFL rule of 1 yard.

      As a linebacker you have to be able to key on something. Unless people really want these games to be 52-51 games every week. As it is now most schools are running these little POP passes.

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      • PTC DAWG

        The 1 yard NFL version seems to make the most sense, and would be the easiest to enforce. There are mobile QB’s n the League…and this is not a problem there…

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        • Macallanlover

          Agree, one yard is easier to enforce. And a yard or two beyond that is not nearly as egregious. An OL 6-7 yards downfield has screwed up several defensive players’ reads and created a huge hole in the defense.

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      • Cojones

        My solution to the 1yd rule would be to instruct the D linemen to grab and pull them to you for 2 yds while it’s hidden by the block.

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      • Mayor

        The real problem is how does a LB or a CD decide to drop back and cover or run forward and tackle? The defenders are coached when the O-linemen release and go downfield that is their key to come up and tackle the QB. If they didn’t do that the QB could roll out, faking pass all the way, and run for 10 yards every play before ever being tackled because the defenders would have to cover the receivers. That is why the rule exists in the first place.

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    • JCDAWG83

      If you’re going to say that, why not let multiple receivers be in motion or let the receiver be going forward when the ball is snapped or let offensive linemen use their hands like defensive linemen or allow forward passes past the line of scrimmage? The rules are there to keep one side of the ball from having an unfair advantage. Letting linemen block 3,4,5 yards downfield and then have the qb pull up and pass is unfair. 1 yard allows for an offensive lineman to take a step when the ball is snapped and that’s all, linebackers and safeties could then read pass.

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    • PTC DAWG

      Have you ever played defense?

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  5. JCDAWG83

    This is a rare instance where college needs to follow the NFL lead. 1 yard downfield is enough on a pass play and is much easier to enforce than making the ref know the difference in 3 or 4 or 5 yards.

    Another option would be to change the rule on roughing the passer so that if the qb was outside the tackle box, the roughing rule did not apply. Let the linebackers tee off on the qb who dumps a pass off at the last second after he runs outside on an apparent qb sweep..

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  6. ASEF

    The NFL has a rule that works. CFB has a rule that doesn’t. What’s so difficult about this?

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  7. watcher16

    If these refs can’t tell the difference between 3 or 4 yards, do we actually expect them to tell the difference between 1 or 2?

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    • Macallanlover

      Easier because there is an official standing exactly on the LOS every play, no static official 3-4 yards down the field. If a helmet goes past the 1 yard limit it better not be on a big fat guy.

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  8. Biggus Rickus

    Does it really matter what the rule is? Officiating is so horrible and inconsistent, they’ll still miss it (or ignore it) at least half the time. Aside from holding officials accountable for being bad at their jobs, I don’t know what you can do to solve this or any other problems with officiating.

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  9. ASEF

    1) Easier to maintain sight lines along line of scrimmage to see if linemen are leaking out.
    2) 4 yards with the 3 yard rule is an impossible distinction to make. 4 yards with a 1 yard rule is an easy call to make.
    3) NFL is boring because it’s 100% corporate, not because defenses have a pulse.

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  10. Russ

    Bama has been screwed by this twice in games they lost. Just enforce the freaking rule.

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  11. 3rdandGrantham

    Speaking of the Roll Bama Roll blog, their weekly “It’s Meltdown Time” piece is comedy gold, and is a must read. Especially after a Texas loss (they have the most warped, disturbed fans in the country).

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  12. Dave

    Make it reviewable….simple. Also, we could speed up review too. Techmology, peeps.

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  13. Johan Strand Johansen

    I think it is obvious that College Football decided ten or so years ago that higher scores bring more attention and revenues. I don’t know if that is really true, and I appreciate defense myself, but looking back at the nature of the Oklahoma State-over-Alabama arguments in 2011 – aside from the whining about the women’s assistant basketball coach dying and general SEC fatigue and resentments – there might be something to it. Traditional Alabama football was condemned as “boring”.

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  14. JN

    This rule generates more offense, more offense generates more points, more points create excitement, excitement draws in the fringe fans.

    Those of us reading this blog don’t matter. They (being CFB Powers That Be) have us. Regardless of whether the games are 7-3 or 100-98, we’re going to watch. We’re going to go (to the games). We’re going to PAY. High scoring exciting games, however, draw in more fringe fans.

    Take UGA/UT 13 for example. That game was nauseating from a UGA’s fans perspective, and that isn’t because the Neyland turf monster bit every skill playr on UGA’s offense. That game was bad. It was ugly. It was awful to watch. It was high scoring. It was voted as a top-20 game of the season.

    The rule isn’t the problem. The problem is the powers that be choosing not to enforce it. Look no further than holding. Honestly, that’s generating more points that this rule (IMO). Hell, holding shouldn’t even be in the lexicon at this point. They ought to change it to yanking down, groping, tackling a rushing defender by an OL, whatever you want to call it. It’s not being called because they don’t want it to be called. As long as the money is flows like wine and the fans instintively flock like the salmon of capistrao, it ain’t changin.

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    • BMan

      Fixed it for you: “This rule generates more offense, more offense generates more points, more points create more commercial breaks, commercial breaks draw in more money.”

      Like

    • flock like the salmon of capistrao,
      I don’t know it that was intentional or not but either way I’m stealin it

      Like

  15. PTC DAWG

    Either change the rule to 1 yard and enforce it, or give the Coaches a challenge. 1 per half, as long as they win said challenge, they keep it. This would put the brakes on this stuff quick.

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  16. Harvey Updyke

    They tell me The Grove has a lot of trees.

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  17. Big Ol cup of STFU

    this is too simple. every linemen simply needs an RFID tag imbedded under their skin (like mine from the military) and then a ref with a scangun can detect whether or not they cross the line or not. Voila, done. that was easy.

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    • Macallanlover

      Just put it with/on the helmet or shoulder pad, you don’t have to go under the skin. A chip is being worked on currently for the football to see whether it passes the 1st down marker and/or goal line. Working on how to balance the weight and not impact kicks and throws by making the ball wobble.

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  18. AusDawg85

    The really astonishing thing is two rules are being violated…ineligible receiver downfield and offensive pass interference (assuming the lineman is engaged blocking someone). So if the refs struggle with seeing a lineman push past 3 yards, how are they also missing the block? I don’t think they are that bad / blind. I think it’s a point of emphasis to let it happen for the spread offenses, but still call it in traditional formations and ST plays. Whatever the reason, it’s wrong and it will work against us every time.

    Like