Today's Tidbit... Flopping On Field Goals
Penn soundly beat visiting Harvard 15-6 in the second-to-last game of the 1897 season in which Penn outscored its opponents 463-20 on their way to a 15-0 record, equaled only by Clemson in 2018.
Football did not require seven players to be on the line of scrimmage until 1903, allowing Penn to pioneer the guards back formation in 1892, which the 1897 team used as well. The formation had both guards aligned in the backfield so they could be among three players allowed to be in forward motion at the snap.
None of that was unusual at the time. Instead, the memorable aspect of the game was that Penn attempted and made a place-kicked field goal, which was new and included holding techniques considered odd today. Thankfully, the newspaper article covering the Harvard game reported on how Penn executed the kick, describing the holder's technique.
Goals kicked following a touchdown were free kicks back then. The standard holding technique had the holder lie on his stomach with arms extended with the ball held between his hands. Then, when the kicker was ready, the holder pulled his hand from under the ball and set it on the ground, at which point the defense could rush the kicker.
Since field goals were scrimmage plays, the defense could rush upon the snap. As a result, everyone dropkicked field goals until 1896, when several teams experimented with what became known as a Princeton place kick. (Otterbein was the first to use this kicking style, but Princeton made it famous.) The article tells us that Penn had John Outland (of Outland Trophy fame) snap the ball to right halfback W. N. Morice, who stood ten yards behind the line of scrimmage. When Morice caught the snap, he flopped on his belly with outstretched arms and held the ball for John Minds, who booted the ball through the uprights.
Over the next few years, holders began squatting or kneeling when holding for field goals, but Penn went undefeated doing it the old-fashioned way.
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