Ask the Official: How are face mask penalties marked off?

By Brent Glasgow | Posted 11/6/2017

Welcome to Ask the Official, a weekly blog series from USA Football. We’ve teamed up with Bill LeMonnier, USA Football rules editor, who’s served as a college football referee and also works with ESPN as a rules analyst. Look for LeMonnier’s blog every week during football season, as we take reader-submitted questions or revisit a controversial play that took place the previous weekend. See below for information on how to submit your questions. Here’s today’s topic:

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Q: At a local high school football game, the quarterback rolled out and was face-masked at the 10-yard line. The line of scrimmage was the 14. Is the yardage marked from the line of scrimmage or from the spot? It was third down-and-3 from the 14, and the penalty was marked from the spot as a 5-yard penalty, so it was third-and-3 again.

A: In high school football, you can have either a 5-yard or 15-yard penalty for a face mask foul.  The 5-yard penalty is for a grab of the face mask only - no pull, twist or yank. The 15-yard penalty is for twisting, pulling or yanking on the face mask.

Penalty enforcement will be from the end of the run. If this was behind the line of scrimmage, and the QB's run ended behind the line, enforcement would be from there and they'd repeat the down.  

It's a much-debated topic at the high school level that the previous isn't minimally used for fouls by Team A or Team B. That said, by the way the play was presented, it sounds like the correct enforcement was made by rule.

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.