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College Football/Clock /penalty conflict


Dear Sir,

Watching the Alabama/LSU game. LSU received back to back delay of game penalties on offense inside their own 10 yard line. Both times they were penalized half the distance to the goal line and the play and game clocks were both re started when the ball was reset. Essentially LSU used over 70 seconds to run one play. Under this clock operation, couldn't a team with a lead in the fourth quarter just continue to take delay of game penalties the whole quarter, take half the distance penalties, have the game clock restart after each one and eventually run out the clock and win the game?




Thanks for the question!  The answer is no.  If the Referee believes that a team is taking a delay of game to use up the clock, he is to order the game clock to start on the snap, rather than the ready-for-play.  So, if the game is in the middle of the first quarter, for instance, a delay of game was probably nothing more than an accident.  If the clock was running when this foul occurred, the clock will be started again after the penalty enforcement (provided the team wasn't in a kicking formation - more on that below).  If the foul is at the end of the 2nd or 4th quarters. the Referee will determine if the team is attempting to unfairly consume time, and if so, he will start the clock on the snap.  

The Rule is 3-4-3, which provides "The referee shall order the game clock or play clock started or stopped whenever either team conserves or consumes playing time by tactics obviously unfair.  This includes starting the game clock on the snap if the foul is by the team ahead in the score."

In addition, a delay of game when a team is in "kicking formation" (meaning a punt or field goal formation) causes the clock to start on the snap.  

Also, Rule 9-2-3-b provides that a team which repeatedly commits fouls for which penalties can be enforced only by halving the distance to its goal line is an unfair act.  In that instance, the referee may take any action he considers equitable, which includes awarding a score or suspending or forfeiting the game.

I hope that helps explain the rule.  Thanks again!

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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