Today we look at the image of the 1928 New Hampshire football team kicking off, covering a few elements of late 1920s football that pop out from the image.
One notable element is that everyone on the near sideline is seated or kneels in front of the bench. Coaching from the sideline was illegal then, and everyone had to be seated to prevent coaches from signaling plays or strategies using motion or body positioning.
Next, all but one or two of the players wear sweaters with "New Hampshire" emblazoned on the back. It has been more than a few decades since a college team took the field, with every substitute player wearing a team jacket.
Another interesting element in the image is the offset benches. Normally, team benches sat directly across from one another, centered at midfield. However, at New Hampshire, the home bench does not go past the 45-yard line, likely due to what appears to be the long jump pit that ends just past the 50-yard line. Meanwhile, the opponent's bench extends just beyond midfield.
Last is the action on the field, which shows New Hampshire is prepared to kick off. The kicker has his arm raised, signaling that he is ready, while an official kneels on the 40-yard line to check that the New Hampshire players remain behind the kicker when the kicker boots the ball. Meanwhile, the opposing return team is nowhere in sight. Although onside kickoffs have been in use since 1896, return teams in the 1920s often positioned everyone twenty-plus yards from the spot of the kick. The rules did not require the receiving team to set five players between ten and fifteen yards from the kick -a rule put in place to limit wedge blocking on the return. Despite receiving teams commonly leaving themselves open to an onside kick, the kicking team often did not take advantage of that tactic. Onside kicks were frowned upon from a sportsmanship standpoint, and hoped that a deep kick might pin the opponent deep in their territory.
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It is with a keen eye that Mr. Brown sees and recognizes these subtle items to the normal person that glances at these images. Thanks for spotting the little things and making us all a bit wiser.