Today's Tidbit... Just A Boy Whose Intentions Are Good
Football has enacted a long line of rules to correct issues arising in big games, with the 1978 Holy Roller game between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers among the better-remembered examples. The Raiders trailed by six with 10 seconds left in the game when Kenny Stabler took the snap at the Chargers' 14-yard line. As Stabler was about to be sacked, the ball left his hands, bouncing forward. Another Raider went for the ball and did not gain possession but also pushed the ball closer to the goal line.
Dave Casper, the Raiders' tight end, then batted and kicked the ball several times until he fell on it after it entered the end zone, giving the Raiders a 21-20 victory.
The NFL does not allow embedding YouTube videos of that play into a wonderful article like this one, but you can watch it here.
The NFL rules of the time prohibited intentional forward fumbles. Still, the officials argued they could not determine the intentionality of the Raiders' players, so they ruled the play a touchdown.
In reaction, the NFL adopted a new rule for 1979 allowing only the fumbler to recover a forward fumble, at least on fourth down or the last two minutes of the half.
A similar situation occurred forty-two years earlier when Yale visited Navy for a mid-October contest between two heavy hitters. Yale scored first, but Navy took a 7-6 lead before the half, and the score held into the third quarter when Yale punted. Navy back Sneed Schmidt, the punt returner, fumbled the punt at the Navy 25-yard line and was hit by one Yale end while the other, Larry Kelly, attempted to grab the ball but kicked it instead. The kicked ball rolled from the 25-yard line to the 3-yard line, where Kelly fell on it.
The officials in 1936 had the same difficulty judging intentionality as their counterparts in 1978 and ruled it was Yale's ball on the 3-yard line. Two plays later, Yale scored their second touchdown of the contest, which proved enough for the win.
Just as in 1979, the NCAA rule makers rejiggered the standards in 1937 to eliminate intentionality; a live ball became dead when it touched a player's foot on a non-kicking play, regardless of intent. Despite that being a good idea, the NCAA's 2022 rule book still mentions intentionality fourteen or fifteen times. Since it is now forty-four years after the Holy Roller game, we must be due for another big game in which the officials' failure to interpret player intentions leads to another controversy and a remaking of the rules the following year.
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