Regarding the end of the ASU-WI game Saturday.

The situation

WI was down by 2, no TOs left, 1st down at ASU 13.Game clock was running.

What WI did

At :18, they snapped the ball and ran to the middle of the field to center the ball for a second-down spike. The WI QB took the knee and put the ball on the ground on the 15 at :16. Officials blew the play dead at :15 ASU guys “recovered” the fumble. An official told them the play had been blown dead and to let loose of the ball. They finally did at :05. The official placed the ball then prevented snapping until the clock ran out thereby preventing ASU from spiking the ball and attempting the game-winning 15 +17 = 32-yard FG.

Okay clock management

This is okay clock management by WI.

Incompetent officiating

The officials just behaved incompetently. They should have stopped the clock, ordered the clock operator to set the game clock back to :15, then gave the signal (arm winding) to start both the game and play clocks. At that point, WI should have watched the clock go down to :05 then called for the snap and spiked the ball stopping the clock at :03.

Then they bring the FG team onto the field and kick the field goal with the 3rd down play. Time runs out while the ball is in the air and if the FG is good, WI wins the game.

No appeal in football

What can WI do about the officials screw-up? Nothing. Unlike baseball, there are no appeals in football.

The simpler solution for WI

A simpler solution would have been to let the clock run down to :05 on the second down play and spiked it at the right hash. Then kick the FG from the right hash.

No benefit from moving to the middle

Goal posts are 18.5 feet wide. NCAA hash marks are 40 feet apart. I just used a piece of graph paper and a protractor to see how much wider in terms of degrees the goal post target is from the middle of the field as opposed to the right hash at a distance of 32 yds x 3 = 96 feet.

The answer is the middle of the field gives you an 11º-wide target and the right hash gives you a 10.5º-wide target. WI lost the game to widen their FG kicker’s target by .5º!

What is the increased probability of success from the middle as opposed to the right hash? I would expect close to zero. Also, the run to the middle increased the distance by 2 yards which narrows the target width in terms of degrees.

WI violated the keep-it-simple-stupid principle.

Vestige of rules 50 years ago

Where did this notion get started that it is better to kick from the middle of the field? Back in the 1960s when the goal posts were on the goal line, not the end line, and the hashes were farther apart. But even then, the difference in target width in terms of degrees was negligible. It only mattered for shorter field goals. The notion that you should move the ball to the middle of the field became outmoded when they moved the goal post back to the end line and narrowed the hashes. That coaches still feel they have to move to the middle is a silly vestige of that long-gone era combined with coaches not thinking the matter through in light of the long-ago rules changes.

NFL hashes are even narrower—matching the vertical uprights of the goal post locations. High-school hashes are wider—at 1/3 of the field width—which is 160 feet ÷ 3 = 53 1/3 feet apart and 53 1/3 feet from the sidelines. So NFL coaches should never move the ball closer to the middle. High school coaches should consider doing it for close-in field-goal attempts.

In my 20s, I had thoughts of being an NFL place kicker. Before I figured out my knee joint did not rotate fast enough, I spent a lot of time practicing and studying it. Back then the old rules applied. I was the second-highest scorer on our Army companytackle football team that won the Fort Monmouth Super Bowl in 1971—as the place kicker (also defensive end). I would say the benefits of moving the ball to the middle are mostly psychological for the kicker and I would further expect that pro kickers are beyond needing such psychological assists.

This is reminiscent of coaches always using their little go-for-1-or-2 card after every TD. In my clock management book, I explained that was stupid—that the little card only applied when there would likely only be one or two more scores in the game. Apparently, as a direct result of my discussion of that in my clock book, NCAA and NFL coaches stopped using the little card until the end of the game.

Best wishes,

John T. Reed