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College Football/downing a punt in college


If team A punts the ball, and a player on team A catches the ball after it has bounced on the one yard line of the receiving team B; but in catching the ball the player from team A momentum takes him into the end zone; is this a touch back or is the ball down at the one yard line?



Thanks for your question, and a good one given rules differences between Saturdays and Sundays.

In college, if a player of the kicking team catches or recovers a scrimmage kick that has crossed the neutral zone, the ball immediately becomes dead.  As soon as the ball is caught or recovered, it is dead.  The kicking team player could catch the ball in stride on the one, and as long as he has possession on the one, he can carry it into the end zone.  It is dead immediately.  Many college players don't realize this, and they attempt to throw it back into the field of play before crossing the end zone.  However, as soon as they possess it, it is dead.  

Also different is that the position of the ball is the important part. If it breaks the plane of the goal line before possession by the kicking team, it will end up as a touchback.  It isn't where the feet are, but where the ball is.  A player can have 95% of his body in the end zone, and reach back to keep the ball from breaking the plane of the end zone.  The ball must break the plane to be in the end zone.

Thanks for the question!  Hope that helps!

Bill Robers

College Football

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William Robers


I can answer rules questions and officiating questions (including training, mechanics, and general questions).


College Football Official since 2005; assist in training newer officials.

Big Sky Conference Officials Association Sports Lawyers Association Rotary International

Law Degree from University of Minnesota Law School, 2001 MBA from Carlson School of Management at the U. of Minnesota, 2001 B.S. in Business Administration from Marquette University, 1997

Awards and Honors
Post-Season official in 2012 and 2013.

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