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Today’s Tidbit… 1876 IFA Rule #19: Maul In
This is #19 in a series covering football’s original 61 rules adopted by the Intercollegiate Football Association in 1876. We review one rule each Friday.
Rules 19 and 20 concern maul-ins, which largely left the game in 1885, while some elements remained until 1910. Some aspects of maul-ins returned to football in recent years and were on full display in Super Bowl LVII (the one played in 2023 since few remember the Roman numerals).
Rule 19 defines maul-ins and their two potential outcomes, while Rule 20 covers which players may participate in a maul-in.
Rule 19: A maul-in goal is when the holder of the ball is tackled inside the goal-line, or, being tackled immediately outside, is carried and pushed across it, and he, or the opposite side, or both, endeavor to touch the ball down. In all cases when so touched down, the ball shall belong to the side of the players of the side who first had possession of it before the maul commenced, unless the opposite side have gained complete possession of it.
Critical to understanding Rule 19 is recognizing that "tackled" refers to the process of tackling, not its outcome. A ball carrier is tackled when grabbed by an opponent. "Tackled" was not equal to “down” in 1876, despite our intermixing the two today.
So, a maul involved a mass of players, including the ball carrier, pushing and pulling one another toward or away from the goal line, and a maul became a maul-in once the ball crossed the goal line.
Remember, Rule 9 told us a touchdown occurred when a player touched the ball down beyond the opponent's goal line. Crossing the goal line while possessing the ball was not enough to score a touchdown. The ball had to touch the ground.
When the ball carrier's teammates moved him past the goal line, they tried to take him to the ground so he could touch the ball down. Meanwhile, the opponents tried to keep him on his feet while moving the ball carrier back across the goal line and onto the field of play.
Due to maul-ins being dangerous for players and boring for fans, they were eliminated in 1885 by eliminating the need for the ball to be touched down in goal. Instead, a touchdown occurred when a player possessing the ball moved it over or across the opponent’s goal line.
For reasons we will cover when discussing Rule 20, football made it illegal to push, pull, or other otherwise assist a teammate possessing the ball in 1910. However, the NFL allowed pushing a teammate to return in 2005, and college football did the same in 2013. That is why Jalen Hurts' Philadelphia Eagles teammates could legally assist his run by pushing him on quarterback sneaks in the Super Bowl and throughout the season.
For previous stories in the series, click Intro | Rules #1 Drop Kick | #2 Place Kick | #3 Punt | #4 Goal Posts | #5 Goal | #6 Goal ≠ Punt | #7: Scoring | #8: Dead Ball | #9: Touchdown | #10: Tackle | #11: Scrimmage | #12: Ball Handling | #13 Dead Ball | #14: Scrimmage Ball Handling | #15 Run In | #16: Goal Line | #17: Boundary Lines | #18: Crying “Down”
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