Apparently there was a play where a receiver caught a pass going toward the end zone and had a little encounter with everyone's favorite orange friend: the pylon.
Like the foul-pole in baseball, it's a boundary marker that signifies something is in play, instead of out. (Other than on kicking plays, but let's ignore that for now)
Anyway, on this particular play, I was told the receiver's foot hit the pylon while he had possession of the football and was on his way to the ground. The ruling, which was correct, was an incomplete pass. The reason it was the correct ruling was that the receiver caught the pass in midair and hadn't yet hit the ground. The distinction is that, while the pylon is used to signify being inbounds in many cases, touching it does not equal touching the ground -- as it is technically positioned out of bounds. Had the player gotten one foot down before kicking the pylon with his other -- as long as he had possession of the ball and the ball was breaking the plane of the end zone, of course -- it would have been a touchdown. Instead, he didn't get one foot down inbounds, even though he hit the object that often signals inbounds.
Situations like these seem to confuse some fans, because it's always hammered home via announcers that when someone hits the pylon it's a touchdown. This is not always the case -- see this week's fallacy below for more on that.
Also in the mailbag was a question about timing when it comes to getting out of bounds to stop the clock. Late in the first half of the Virginia Tech-Boston College game, a player's knee hit the ground inbounds as the ball was over the sideline but not yet touching the ground. In order to be out of bounds, something has to hit the ground out -- whether it's a knee, hand, football, etc. Most people know this, but sometimes there is confusion on the clock continuing to run when it seems like a guy was knocked out.
You know, you see a player get wrapped up and driven all the way out, only to see the sideline official making the winding motion. This is a case of forward progress being stopped inbounds. The ball is spotted at the farthest spot the offense has achieved once a hit and tackle has been made. Again, most people know this, so just combine the basics for the answer.
If a player's forward progress was achieved before he was out of bounds, he's inbounds at that spot and the clock keeps spinning. If a player wants the clock to stop, he better be moving forward while crossing the out of bounds line or simply stepping out on his own.
• Helmet-to-helmet contact continues to be the most inconsistent call in football at all levels.
Let's use the Boise State-Oregon State game for a quick microcosm. There was a penalty in the second half on Boise where it appeared there were several Broncos players who got to the ballcarrier at the same time and ended up only really hitting each other with any force. But a few plays earlier, James Rodgers was forced from the game with a concussion when he took a blow to the head with nary a flag.
(UPDATE: Boise State safety Winston Venable was suspended for the flagrant blow to the head, and rightfully so. There was no reason for this hit)
So, here's the deal.
This call is going to continue to appear sporadic as long as players are getting concussions -- so, basically, as long as the sport of football is being played. The easiest way to avoid a call as a player is to never, ever lead with your helmet. It shouldn't be happening anyway, because this is a good way to break a neck. If the officials appear to be erring on the side of caution with this issue, it's because they are -- in the name of player safety.
Now, in terms of ones that get missed, here's how it could happen. First, you can't penalize a player if the helmet-to-helmet contact is a product of pure coincidence. Think about when a would-be tackler is approaching a ballcarrier and the guy with the ball tries to make a quick move at the last second. Sometimes helmets are going to hit in this case. Other times, the ballcarrier simply lowers his head as a natural reaction to brace for contact and helmets hit. Again, you can't really call that.
And every circumstance is different.
The sad reality is that this call will continue to seem inconsistent from a fan's perspective as long as football is being played. Let's all just keep in mind why it is being enforced and hope head injuries are kept to a minimum.
And if you're still playing football and reading this: shoulder tackles to the waist are the most effective anyway. Keep your head safe while being a good tackler all in one fell swoop. Just look at the picture to the right -- only get that head up, not down.
Fallacy of the Week
I basically already dealt with this week's fallacy in the introduction, as I had down the pylon itself on my list of things to cover this season as something it seems the masses often misconstrue.
Let's just remember that, in order for the pylon-makes-touchdown argument to come into play, all the other factors have to be present. If a player is diving to the corner and his knee hits the ground when the ball is still at the half-yard line, but he then falls a bit forward and hits the pylon with the football, it's not a touchdown. That might sound easy, but you wouldn't believe how crazy people go at the youth levels screaming, "but he hit the pylon!"
Just remember, our orange friend is the last factor in determining a score. You' have to have a player inbounds, not down, and with established possession before using it.
Have a question or comment involving officiating? Don't be shy. E-mail me at Matt.Snyder@FanHouse.com or simply drop it in the comments section below. Also, feel free to submit plays to my e-mail address for examination, possibly even in future columns. I guarantee a response to serious inquiries.