The Forward Pass's Uphill Battle

New NCAA Transfer Rule

Prolific D-II Rusher

Don Hutson's Big Day

Cardinal and Gold for the Maroons

Who's Kevin Smith?

Best OTs in the Land

Monumental Upset

Giants vs. Rough Riders

What Happened to Alley Broussard?


Football: Did You Know? ­ I

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Football: Did You Know? – II
The Forward Pass's Uphill Battle

St. Louis U. First Forward Pass
St. Louis back credited in 1906 with throwing
the first forward pass in a college game.
It fell incomplete and thus resulted
in a turnover.

Football began as an offshoot of rugby, a game that does not allow the ball to be thrown forward. Coaches in the early decades considered forward passing unmanly and not sporting.

This trace of the rules governing forward passing in college football shows how long a period it took to reach the unlimited aerial game we see today.

  • 1906
    The forward pass is legalized but with severe restrictions.
    • The pass must be thrown by a player who was in the backfield when the ball was snapped.
    • Only the players lined up at the end of the line could catch the ball. A pass that hits an ineligible receiver is incomplete.
    • An incomplete pass turns the ball over to the defensive team at the point where the ball hit the ground. If the ball goes out of bounds, any player can recover it.
    • Any pass must cross the line of scrimmage more than 5y away from where the ball was snapped. Likewise, the receiver must not cross the line of scrimmage within 5y of the centering point. If this rule is violated, the pass is considered incomplete.
      Note: Because of this rule, lines 5y apart parallel to the sidelines were added to playing fields. A reporter wrote that the field thus resembled a "gridiron."
    • A pass that crosses the other team's goal line is treated as a touchback. The defensive team gains possession on its 20.
 1906 Pass Marietta vs Ohio
Pete Gilman of Marietta has just released a 52y TD pass against Ohio in 1906.
  • 1910
    • The rules requiring passes to be thrown and received within 5y of the center point are rescinded.
    • Forward passes are limited to 20y in length and must be thrown from at least 5y be­hind the line of scrimmage.
  • 1912
    • The 20y limit for passes is removed.
    • A pass completed in the opponent's end zone is a TD, not a turnover.
    • An incomplete pass results in a loss of a down, not a turnover.
  • 1926
    • The second (or third or fourth) incomplete pass in a row carries a penalty of 5y.
    • An incomplete pass in the opponent's end zone is again considered a turnover.
  • 1934
    • The 1926 penalties against incomplete passes are eliminated except that two succes­sive incomplete passes in the end zone produce a touchback. Likewise, a 4th down incomplete pass in the end zone is a touchback.
  • 1938
    • Except for fourth down passes, incompletions in the end zone are not treated as touch­backs but simply loss of down.
  • 1941
    • A fourth down pass incomplete in the end zone gives the opponent the ball at the spot where it was put into play.
  • 1945
    • The requirement that passes must be thrown from at least 5y behind the line of scrim­mage is eliminated.
  • 1949
    • Offensive linemen may not cross the line of scrimmage on a pass play until the pass is completed.
Reference: The Ultimate Guide to College Football, James Quirk (2004)
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New NCAA Transfer Rule
Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk
Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk is a senior in his first year (2007) at the university. How did this come about?
  • Because of the NCAA's new rule allowing a player who has his degree with a year of eligibility left to transfer to another school without having to sit out a year.
  • Ben was at Wake Forest for his first three years of eligibility. However, he suffered a nasty injury in the first game of the 2006 season when he dove for a lose ball and two Syracuse defenders landed on his right arm, breaking his humerus badly. Surgeons inserted a plate and eight screws. Three more metal anchors were added later. "I didn't think he was going to play again," says Jim Grobe, his coach at Wake.
  • After getting his degree last spring, Ben transferred to UC in his home state without knowing if he could play again. His successful rehab convinced new coach Brian Kelly to put him in charge of the spread, no-huddle offense, which has propelled the Bearcats to their best season in many years.
Prolific D-II Rusher
Danny Woodhead is a senior TB at undefeated Chadron State, a Division II school (Fall 2007).
  • On October 6, 2007, the 5'7" 200 pounder became the most prolific rusher in college football history, breaking the NCAA record of 7,353 yards set in 2000 by R.J. Bowers of Division III Grove City (Pa.) College. No active rusher is within 1,855 yards of Woodhead.
  • He set rushing records at North Platte HS in Nebraska, where his father was an assistant coach.
  • He was timed at 4.43 seconds for the 40-yard dash and his vertical jump is more than 33 inches. 16 of his rushing TDs have come on runs of more than 60 yards. As of the November 10 games, Danny has 1,318 yards for 2007 with 18 TDs, the longest being 89 yards. That averages out to 146.4 ypg.
  • "There's no doubt in my mind that he's a Division I talent," says his coach, Bill O'Boyle. "Can he play in the NFL? Without question," says Don Beebe, another Chadron State player who made it in the NFL and after whom the school's stadium is named. "If you're that good, they'll find you."
  • Even though Danny was named Nebraska high school player of the year for 2003, Division I schools showed little interest because of his size (180 lbs then). Nebraska, where he always yearned to play, told him he could walk on as a kick returner. His only scholarship offer was from Chadron.
Danny Woodhead
Don Hutson's Big Day
Packers E Don Hutson

On October 7, 1945, the Green Bay Packers hosted the Detroit Lions in Milwaukee. Don Hutson scored four touchdowns and kicked five extra points for a total of 29 points in the 57-21 Packer victory.

  • The TDs all came on pass receptions from Irv Comp and Don McKay.
  • Hutson ended his 11-season career that year. During that time, he led the NFL in receptions eight times, in scoring five times, and in interceptions once. (He was an outstanding safety in those days of one-platoon football.)
  • He totaled 99 TD passes, a record that was not broken until 1989 by Steve Largent. At the time of his retirement, he held a total of 18 records.

Hutson's name is also connected to the player on the opposite end from him at Alabama: Paul "Bear" Bryant. Hutson actually came to the Crimson Tide on a baseball scholarship.

Cardinal and Gold for the Maroons
Only once has a Mississippi State team appeared in any other color combination than maroon and white.
  • In 1938 first-year football coach Spike Nelson secretly had cardinal and gold uniforms made for State. However, this choice did not sit well with the team or the fans at the first game. Neither the uniforms nor Nelson were back for the next season.
  • The year started prominently with three straight shutouts over Samford, Florida, and Louisiana Tech. After a loss to Auburn in Montgomery, the Bulldogs defeated Duquesne in Pittsburgh 12-7. Then a two-game Louisiana sojourn produced defeats at Tulane (0-27) and LSU (7-32). The season concluded with three more losses to Centenary in Meridian, at Southwestern, and to archrival Ole Miss in Starkville 6-19.
Who's Kevin Smith?
Central Florida's Kevin Smith was a RB at Miami Southridge High until he was moved to safety his senior year. This caused several BCS colleges to drop him from their recruiting lists., the premiere recruiting site, assigned him only two stars (out of five). The Knights recruited him as an RB, and he is now the leading rusher in the history of the state of Florida (take that, Gators, Seminoles, and Hurricanes!). Kevin needs 180 yards in the Liberty Bowl to break Barry Sanders' single-season rushing mark. He has decided to return for his senior season to add to his records.

Contrast two-star Smith with the #3 RB on Rivals' 2005 list, Jason Gwaltney from Long Island NY who received five stars – although the fifth star came only after Jason himself anonymously politicked for it on various message boards. Rivals also designated Gwaltney "the #1 impact freshman" for the upcoming (2005) season. Jason signed with West Virginia after toying with USC. However, Jason battled injuries and watched as another freshman RB, Steve Slaton from PA, emerged as UWV's main man despite earning only three stars from Rivals. Unhappy in Morgantown, Gwaltney started talking about transferring almost as soon as he arrived. He returned home at the end of the season and played for Nassau Community College in 2006. He didn't play for anyone in 2007.
UCF HB Kevin Smith
Best OTs in the Land?
Ohio State's starting OTs, senior tri-captain Kirk Barton and junior Alex Boone, will be under the microscope in the BCS Championship Game against LSU. Reason? What is widely considered their woeful performance in last season's championship game against Florida's quick DEs. Yet some now call them the "finest pair of tackles in the nation." (One of those proclaiming OSU's O-line the best in the nation is ESPN's Lee Corso, who after the 2006 OSU-UM game gushed, "These are clearly the two best teams in the nation!")

Barton didn't even make his all-county team in high school but is now a two-time All-Big Ten selection and a member of some All-America teams. He is one of only three players in OSU history to start and win four times against archrival Michigan. He has been in and out of Jim Tressel's doghouse, first for popping off to the media after a game about why soph QB Troy Smith wasn't starting and again for appearing for an interview after the '06 win over UM with a lit cigar and a bottle of champagne. At a recent press conference, Tressel was asked how much he'll miss Barton next season. "A year ago, I'd have said, 'Very little.'" For the stoic Buckeye coach, that was high humor and brought a laugh from the reporters.

"J. J." Boone is much more intense than the happy-go-lucky Barton. His problem has been alcoholism. As a freshman, he often downed 30-40 beers a day. The 6'8" Boone has his weight down to 315 this season from a high of 350. Since the Buckeye staff believes the team got soft and stale during the 51-day layoff after the 2006 season, they have worked the team harder in practice and in the weight room. So Boone may weigh less than 315 at kickoff unless he overeats New Orleans' rich cuisine during the five days the Buckeyes are in town (another change by Tressel – last year they arrived in Arizona 10 days ahead).

Keep an eye on the edges when OSU has the ball. Who wins the perimeter battles may well determine the victor.

Reference: "Second Chance", Sports Illustrated, Austin Murphy 12/31/07
Monumental Upset
The Wall Street Journal: "When ULM beat Alabama by seven points in November [2007], it was nothing short of a fiscal miracle." Louisiana-Monroe's total football expenses last season were $2.6 million. That's $19 million less than Alabama's. But the disparity is even greater when you look at the coaches' salaries. Nick Saban earns $4 million a year – the highest salary in college football. ULM's coach, Charlie Weatherbie, earns $130,000, which is one of the lowest salaries. So Saban earns more in two weeks than Weatherbie makes in a year.
Reference: Wall Street Journal, 12/21/07
Giants vs. Rough Riders
On August 12, 1950, the New York Giants played a preseason exhibition game in Ottawa, Canada, against the Ottawa Rough Riders. The Canadian Football League had not yet been formed (1958 was the CFL's maiden season). So Ottawa played a game more akin to rugby than to American football.

The first half was played with Canadian rules.

  • 12 players on a side
  • No blocking ten yards beyond the line of scrimmage
  • Only three downs to make ten yards for a first down.
  • Also, the field was 110 yards long with 25-yard end zones.
  • Any kick into the end zone (except a made FG) that was not returned past the goal line gave the kicking team a point, a score called a "rouge."
  • TDs counted for only five points. The goal posts were on the goal line but in 1950 that was true in the NFL as well.

The second half followed American rules, with makeshift lines shortening and narrowing the field.

15,000 fans at Lansdowne Park saw the Giants, coached by Steve Owen, take a 13-6 halftime lead despite adjusting to foreign rules.

  • The Rough Riders scored first on a pass for a 5-0 lead. (The conversion failed.) Then the Giants' Tom Landry (future Hall of Fame coach for the Cowboys) punted into the end zone for a rouge.
  • After a fumble recovery, Landry completed three straight passes to set up a 7y TD run by Steve Hattfield. Ray Poole kicked the PAT for an 8-5 lead.
  • A 60y TD run for the Giants was called back because of an illegal block past the ten-yard limit.
  • The visitors were also penalized 15 yards for "high tackling," an accepted NFL custom outlawed in Canada.
  • The only other Ottawa score in the first half was a rouge. However, NY mounted a drive led by backup QB Allie Sherman, who doubled as the backfield coach (and who would coach in Canada in 1953 before rejoining the Giant staff in 1959).
  • Sherman used the classic three HB "T" formation against Ottawa's eight-man front to spring RB Bob Griffith loose on several long runs before Sherman passed to E Bill Swiacki to set up Hattfield's 3y TD plunge.

Playing by their familiar rules in the second half, the bigger, stronger Giants pulled away.

  • First string QB Charley Conerly's passes set up two six-point TDs by Griffin on one- and two-yard plunges.
  • The final score was 27-6.

The 1950 Giants finished 10-2 and tied for first place in the American Conference of the NFL. However, they lost a playoff, 8-3, to the Cleveland Browns, who joined the league that season after dominating the defunct All-American League. The Browns then won the championship over the Los Angeles Rams, winners of the National Conference in a playoff over the Bears, 30-28. Meanwhile, up north, the Rough Riders finished 5-7 for third place in the Eastern Division of the Inter provincial Rugby Union (IRFU).

The Giants and Rough Riders (not to be confused with the Saskatchewan Roughriders) played another pre-season game in Ottawa in 1951. NY won again, 38-6.

Reference: New York Times, 8/13/1950
LSU RB Alley Broussard
What Happened to Alley Broussard?
Alley Broussard departed the LSU team as August practice started in 2007. After setting a single-game rushing record with 250 yards against Ole Miss in 2004, Broussard missed the 2005 season after suffering a knee injury during pre-season practice. He played sparingly in 2006 (74 carries for 281 yards), primarily because he was overweight and out of condition after his rehab.

Alley played the 2007 season at Missouri Southern State, a Division II school in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. He played in ten games, rushing for 892 yards on 165 attempts for a 5.4 average-per-carry and 89.2 yards-per-game. He was the team's leading rusher by over 100 yards. The team finished with a 6-5 record.

Watch YouTube video to remind you how good Alley was before his injury.