College football fans are probably aware of the recent call against Notre Dame that resulted in them losing the game. Now we see many people talking about the call but very few actually mentioning the actual rule. Some don’t even show video of the play preferring still pictures that they hope supports their view. Here will look at both.
First the rule:
Illegal Contact and Pass Interference
ARTICLE 8. a. During a down in which a legal forward pass crosses the neutral zone, illegal contact by Team A and Team B players is prohibited from the time the ball is snapped until it is touched by any player or an official (A.R. 7-3-8-II).
b. Offensive pass interference by a Team A player beyond the neutral zone during a legal forward pass play in which a forward pass crosses the neutral zone is contact that interferes with a Team B eligible player. It is
the responsibility of the offensive player to avoid the opponents. It is not offensive pass interference (A.R. 7-3-8-IV, V, X, XV and XVI):
2. When two or more eligible players are making a simultaneous and bona fide attempt to reach, catch or bat the pass. Eligible players of either team have equal rights to the ball (A.R. 7-3-8-IX).
3. When the pass is in flight and two or more eligible players are in the area where they might receive or intercept the pass and an offensive player in that area impedes an opponent, and the pass is not catchable…..
1. Those infractions that occur during a down in which a forward pass crosses the neutral zone are pass interference infractions only if the receiver had the opportunity to receive a catchable forward pass.
g. Each player has territorial rights, and incidental contact is ruled under “attempt to reach…the pass’’ in Rule 7-3-8. If opponents who are beyond the line collide while moving toward the pass, a foul by one or both players is indicated only if intent to impede the opponent is obvious. It is pass
interference only if a catchable forward pass is involved.
Ok there are the relevant rules. It’s clear that the rule is for players trying to catch the ball and it’s clear. “It is pass interference only if a catchable forward pass is involved.” The question is whether the interference “involved” the pass. I have been watching football for 30 years and have never seen pass interference called involving people other than those who could potentially catch the ball. I have never see calls for pass interference on the other side of the field from where the ball was thrown. This ball was thrown on the sideline and the alleged pass interference was supposedly at the hash mark. So traditional interpretation goes against this call.
Now the play. It’s somewhat unclear who the ref actually called the opi on. He may have called it on 20, or he may have called it on 7. Let’s look at each. As for number 20 it is clear that his defender never makes any attempt to cover 88 at all until after the ball would have been uncatchable. He was clearly covering number 20 and even illegally holding his left sleeve. So again number 20 did not do anything to prevent that defender from being able to catch the ball. The ball was uncatchable for that defender because that defender chose to come up and jam 20 at the line and then hold/cover number 20 instead of the person the ball was being thrown to. That interference seemed to not “involve” the actual pass at all.
But what if the flag was called on number 7? The video clearly shows that the defender covering number 7 also makes no attempt to cover number 88. If he was he would try to step to the outside of number 7 and cover 88. But the video clearly shows that defender steps to the inside of number seven taking away 7s posting route and leading to a collision between both players. It is clear he steps that way and he was not trying to get outside but was picked. So again the intereference had nothing to do with that actual pass to a different player about 25-20 yeards away.
So it’s quite clear from the video
1) That the ball was not catchable for either of the defenders. And
2) The ball was not catchable for either defender not because of anything the offensive player did but rather because those defenders decided to try to cover players other than the receiver that had the ball thrown to him.
If the receivers were not even trying to cover the receiver that the ball was thrown to and and therefore neither could catch it anyway and it is hard to see how this interference call “involved” the actual pass at all.