Not sure if any of you have seen this, but for those who don’t want to view the video, what happened is that a quarterback pretended that the ball needed to be moved 5 yards downfield due to a penalty. While everyone was standing around, he made a break for it and scored the game-winning touchdown.

There was also a recent case when a Cal coach was suspended for having his players fake injury:

Because they run a tempo offense, this sort of thing happens to the Southern Tech Packers with regularity. Pack fans have taken some heat because we’ve come to start booing injured players from certain teams, which is a no-no. It doesn’t help that it often happens with one of Sotech’s rivals, the Piermont Riptide.

Some rivalries are made (due to proximity, usually) and some are born. Sotech and Piermont actually have next to nothing in common as universities (Piermont is a small, private school with a mildly religious background while Sotech is a large public school) who had a rivalry born with a long history of playing one another in games with a lot at stake. Also, Sotech used to be in the habit of running up the score on and on a couple of occasions posted victories with more than 90 points on the board, and Piermont has never forgotten (and they consider it further proof that we are a low-class school). Adding to all of this is an immense dislike by Packer fans of Piermont’s coach, Rod Gandi for reasons I won’t get into.

Anyhow, a couple of seasons ago Piermont inexplicably redesigned their uniforms for a game to emulate ours. Presumably to confuse our players. Typical Gandi, we thought. Then, as we were driving down the field to win the game, over and over again they kept getting “injured” and slowing us down as we were trying to catch their defense off-guard with high-tempo, no-huddle play. Same two players. After the game, Piermont fans were bragging about that it’s not against the rules or anything (actually, as the video demonstrates, it is) and we should just suck it up.

Flash forward to the next season and the our team and our fans are going ballistic every time a player gets hurt. The Piermont fans (on the message board) complained and again suggested that it just showed how low-class our fans were. Others even admitted that they had faked injuries before but that the benefit of the doubt should always go to the limping player. Our fans, obviously, disagreed.

The problem with trick plays like this, whether they are against the rules or not, are that they often lead to things like fans getting angry at injured players for the other team (for the record, one Piermont player we booed was out for the season). I don’t like injured players getting booed. And I want to give every seemingly-injured player the benefit of the doubt. But our coaches and players are left to appeal to the refs every time a player doesn’t get up right until the stretcher comes out and it becomes apparent that there might be a real injury here.

As cute as the high middle school play shown above is, it creates a similar problem. In the event that there is any sort of confusion, what should the defensive players do? If they’re wrong in one direction, it’s a touchdown. If they’re wrong in the other direction, it’s a 15-yard penalty (and possible ejection from the game). Ultimately, it’s not just a trick play, it’s a bad-faith play. A few of the articles talking about the play are saying that it’s a play you only get away with once. Maybe. And maybe some kid will get tackled because some defensive lineman thinks that play has started. In this case, the player walked past the defenders, but next time he may just start walking to the sideline with the ball. Maybe he will genuinely be confused. Maybe not. When there’s not a clear indication of what the defense is supposed to be doing, it’s a recipe for potential problems.

Which is a shame. Cause it really is kind of a cool play.

Category: Downtown, Theater

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8 Responses to Gamesmanship & Trickery

  1. trumwill says:

    I should add that while feigning injury is a hard rule breakage to enforce (unless they’re as ridiculously bad as that Cal guy), I am glad at least that it has been pretty roundly condemned. I don’t want football to become like soccer where people discuss technique with wry smiles. Coaches that do this need to be called out on it.

    The only solution to this that I am aware of is to prevent “injured” players from going back into the game. The downside to this is that you might have players who play hurt to prevent this from happening because they think in a play or two they will ‘walk it off’. Even so, it strikes me as a pretty common-sense move.

    Didn’t the NFL at some point have a rule that any injury in the last two minutes of the game cost you a time-out if you had one? I only vaguely remember this. Any NFL fans want to chime in?

  2. Kevin says:

    My proposal to deal with the injury fakers is as follows. Calculate the average number of times play has to be stopped while an injured player is escorted off the field in an NCAA game. Divide that by two, and give each team that number of “injury timeouts.” Add 1 or 2 extra injury timeouts per team for good measure. Each team is then charged an injury timeout every time play is stopped for one of its players to limp off the field. If the team runs out of injury timeouts, it either must use one of its regular timeouts, or the player cannot return that game. This would protect players who are legitimately injured but not allow teams to fake injury to slow down the tempo of the game.

  3. trumwill says:

    That sounds like a pretty good plan, Kevin. The only problem I see with it is that some games inherently cause more injuries than others. Hot weather, for example, causes cramps. You could have a lot of players get cramped and leave the game permanently or try to play with what seems like a cramp. That would be my only concern.

  4. Mike Hunt says:

    As cute as the high school play shown above is

    Actually it is a middle school play, which makes it even worse.

    Didn’t the NFL at some point have a rule that any injury in the last two minutes of the game cost you a time-out if you had one?

    Yes, if the clock would otherwise have been running. If the team doesn’t have any time-outs, there is a ten second run-off. If it happens again, there is a five-yard penalty, in addition to the run-off.

    The only thing I can say in defense of the offense is that the only ones who can move the ball in case of a penalty are the officials. Then again, these are little kids. Adults playing tricks like this on little kids are pretty classless.

    The solution would be that the injured player has to stay out longer than the rules currently require. As to the correct number of plays, that is up for debate. Maybe until the next first down…

  5. trumwill says:

    Keeping them out for the drive seems like a decent place to start. That gives them time to recuperate from cramps and the like and shouldn’t create depth problems.

    Did they make a distinction as to whether the injury was on offense or defense? Seems that in a final drive it could still be advantageous for a defense to take that time off the clock in order to prevent the offense from making it downfield.

  6. DaveinHackensack says:

    When I first saw this play online, I wondered if it was even legal, due to the way the center hands the ball to the quarterback instead of snapping it.

  7. Mike Hunt says:

    Did they make a distinction as to whether the injury was on offense or defense?

    Not explicitly, but I have never seen the defense pull that move, because it would be palpably unfair to the offense. Delay of game can be called on the defense.

  8. Maria says:

    Hah, I was at that Cal game. They had “injury” time-outs seven or eight times. Drove Oregon nuts.

    Not even close to what you would see with European soccer though. Those guys are Academy Award-quality actors.

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