Friends, I don’t often read the NCAA “Rules & Interpretations”; but when I do…

Allow me to set the scene for you. Ole Miss and Arkansas played a fun ballgame today. Fun that is, unless you are a fan of tackling. But, I digress…

So, we fast forward to overtime. Ole Miss scores a touchdown (and extra point) on their first possession. Thus, Arkansas needs 7 to advance to a second overtime, 8 to win.

Ole Miss backs them up through 3 plays such that Arkansas is facing 4th & 25. As you can see in the video below, Arkansas completes a pass and the receiver is going to be tackled well behind the yard to gain. In a clear attempt to keep the game alive (see Miami), the receiver blindly tosses the ball in the air, behind him.

That toss landed on the ground, then was picked up by an Arkansas running back who took off towards the far side of the field and achieved the line to gain, meaning Arkansas got a fresh set of downs.

A few plays later, Arkansas would punch it in, and then go for two…get it, and Arkansas rolls out the Grove yelling, “Hotty Toddy this…”; well, who knows about that part; but Arkansas got the Win.

What’s that? Not so fast my friends?

NCAA rules state that on 4th down before a change of team possession, when a Team A fumble is caught or recovered by a Team A player other than the fumbler, the ball is dead.


The intent of this rule is exactly to deal with plays of this type…where in desperation to get a necessary 4th down conversion, a player who would be tackled short of the line to gain intentionally fumbles so that another player on his team can advance the ball further. That is exactly what happened in this case.

Tonight I have spoken with some coaches and some administrators about this. There is some grey area about whether the ball becomes a fumble or a “backwards pass” once it hit the ground; but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that I have spoken with that the exact intent of this NCAA rule is to not allow situations like this to occur.

The ball should have been ruled dead where the Arkansas player picked it up after it bounced. That would have resulted in a failure to achieve a first down and the game would have been over.

The refs blew the call by not blowing the whistle. Ole Miss should have won the game.

Update: Late tonight I spoke with someone who had spoken with an SEC official about this call. Per the SEC, the officials on the field used their discretion in ruling the part of the play in question a “backwards pass” and not a fumble, hence the “on 4th down…” part of the rule doesn’t come into play in their opinion.

Our President since 2008, Scott oversees daily operations. An outstanding high school athlete (he wrote that), he chose to go pro in something other than playing football (i.e. he couldn't break a 5.0 40 yard dash). Prior to purchasing FootballScoop, Scott served as a vice president of The Shaw Group, a Fortune 500 company, for eight years.