USA Football Rules Editor Bill LeMonnier is a former college referee who currently serves as an ESPN NCAA rules analyst. Click here to ask Bill a question. Make sure to put “Ask the Official” in the subject line.
I have a question about point-after tries in college football covering several unusual circumstances:
- If a kick is blocked, and the kicking team recovers, can it advance the ball past the line of scrimmage and run the ball into the end zone? If so, how many points does the offense get? Also, does it matter whether the blocked kick hit the ground or not?
- If a kick is blocked, and the ball bounces into the end zone, is it still a live ball such that the defense can return it the length of the field for two points?
- If a kick is blocked, and the ball bounces past the line of scrimmage but does not enter the end zone, is it still a live ball such that the defense can return it the length of the field for two points?
- If a 2-point attempt is intercepted, and the defending team returns the pick but then fumbles the ball, can the team on offense re-recover the ball and run it into the end zone to earn the two points they were originally trying for?
Let’s tackle those one by one.
- Yes, if the blocked kick stays behind the line of scrimmage, the kicking team can recover it and advance. Assuming the offense scores, it becomes a 2-point conversion. In fact, if the blocked kick stays behind the line of scrimmage, either team may recover and attempt to advance the ball for a score.
- No, when a blocked kicked untouched by the defense touches the ground in the end zone, by rule the ball becomes dead and the try is over. If the blocked kick is first touched by the defense in the end zone before touching the ground, the ball remains live, so if the offense recovers, it is a 2-point score. If the defense recovers the ball in the end zone and is down, the try is over. It is possible to have a one-point safety for the offense if the defense possesses the ball on a try in the field of play but then brings the ball back into the end zone, where the ball carrier is tackled or the ball goes out of bounds through the end zone.
- Yes, if the blocked kick is between the line of scrimmage and the goal line but not on or over the goal line, the ball remains live until the kicking team recovers it, the ball rolls out of bounds, the ball rolls into the end zone or the ball rolls dead and the official deems the play over. The defense may recover and advance for a possible 2-point score.
- Yes, when there is a change of possession and the ball is subsequently fumbled by the intercepting team, the kicking team can recover and advance for a potential 2-point score.
Note: In high school football, a try ends when it's obvious the kick is no good. So in all of these instances, the play would be blown dead once the try fails.
At the high school level, there are 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It is fourth down and an offensive player goes back into the end zone to run out the clock and take a safety. During the play, an offensive player commits a personal foul, but time runs out. Is the game over? What are the defense’s options?
Per NCAA and high school rules, assuming that the penalty is not a loss of down penalty, if the defense accepts the penalty, it is marked from the spot of the foul and the offense gets an untimed down. If the penalty is in the end zone, an accepted penalty results in a safety and the game is over. If the defense declines the penalty, the result is a safety and the game is over.
There is no way for the defense to come away with both the safety and an ensuing kick to gain possession of the ball.