Football Officiating > NCAA Discussion

Down error


Here is one for y'all:

NCAA contest, without Replay.
-2/10, A-30, 4:00 (1), game clock to start on the snap (40 second play clock and running), A=7, B=14. The ball is snapped and handed to a back who is tackled and downed at the A-30 (apparently for 'no gain'). However, when the action has stopped, the H (after signaling for the clock to stop at 3:56) notifies the R that Team A's head coach had requested a T/O just before the snap. The R signals T/O to the pressbox, and administers the T/O. (The clock is consciously not adjusted, on the "5 outside of 5" philosophy.)
Unfortunately, the box man did not realize that the T/O was granted BEFORE the apparent snap, and advances the box to 3rd down.
The improper advancement of the down on the box is not recognized by the officials. Following the T/O, the game is resumed with:
-3/10 (on the box), A-30, 3:56 (1), game clock to start on the snap (25 second play clock to start on Referee's signal), A=7, B=14.
A11's legal forward pass in incomplete, with 3:50 (1). (The down advancement error has still not been recognized by the officials.)
-4/10, A-30, 3:50 (1), snap (40 and running), A=7, B=14.
A81 makes a legal punt which is caught by B99 at the B-20 and advanced to the B-30, where he is driven out of bounds.
After the down, the crew realizes that the down had incorrectly been advanced to 3rd down when Team A appeared to snap the ball on 2nd down, but, in fact, were granted a T/O just before the ball was snapped; thus the immediate previous down should have been 3rd down (following the incomplete pass down).


Legacy Zebra:
Because the ball has not been put in play for the next series, the down can be corrected. The only issue is what constitutes “correcting” the down. Unfortunately, there are no AR’s regarding this situation. Do you reset to when the issue occurred (make it 2nd & 10 again), correct the previous down and replay that (3/10), or count the punt as third down and then make correction that it is 4th down for Team A instead of 1st down for Team B.

Hopefully none of us would go the last route. That is not fixing anything that we messed up. If the crew has positive knowledge of when the mistake was made, I would put it back to 2nd and 10. If all we know is that we missed a down somewhere but we can’t determine when the mistake was made, I would go 3/10.

The rule doesn't make us go back to the point of the error - only that we can correct the down number any time we realize it is incorrect, all the way up until the ball is put into play for the next scrimmage series, or a free kick (which could only happen if the 2nd or 4th period had ended, and the 3rd period, or an extra period, started). If the error is recognized before the incorrect 4th down, the crew would just simply change the down number to 3rd, explain it to the teams, and move on. The offense will complain that, if they had know the correct down, they would have run a different play.  Sorry. You are getting the downs to which you are entitled - be happy.
Going back to second down and repeating that down - IMHO - would not be a proper thing to do. That would not be fair to Team B. That would almost be giving Team A an extra down.
Now, putting the ball back at the previous spot and calling it 3rd down isn't much different, I'll grant you. But, Team A would not likely have punted, had they known it was 3rd down. And, certainly, giving Team A the ball at the end of the punt down (B-30) would not be fair to Team B, since there was a legitimate change of team possession during the previous down.

This whole scenario would be weird, but could you imagine coming back after halftime/intermission before an extra period and announcing that the downs had been miscounted in the previous period, and that time would be put back on the clock (as may be appropriate), and/or Team A would now put the ball in play for (2nd/3rd/4th) down in the previous period?

Lesson: Don't screw up the down number (or let the down number get screwed up).

This situation is covered in the Redding Guide (all standard caveats that this is NOT the rulebook nor is it the definitive ruling BUT..)

Chapter 12: Loose Ends and Other stuff Page 215 (2017 version, I'm ordering 2021 now)
Example 12-18:
A38 runs for two yards on 2/4. After the play the marker is flipped to 4th down. On third down, team A a)fumbles and is recovered by B10, b) gains 10 yards for a first down c) scores a TD, d)punts, or e)kicks a successful field goal. The error is then recognized

RULING In A, B, and C there is no need to make a correction. In D and E, team A is allowed to replay the down, 3/2. In E, a successful FG could be allowed to stand


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