Big 12

Big 12 football officials will keep a close eye on downfield blocking this season

K-State quarterback Jake Waters gets plenty of time to through the ball against Oklahoma State last season.
K-State quarterback Jake Waters gets plenty of time to through the ball against Oklahoma State last season. The Wichita Eagle

College football ushered in few rules changes during the offseason, allowing officials to spend more time mastering their craft and less time learning new techniques during summer meetings.

Walt Anderson thinks that will help officials when they return to the field for games this season. One area the Big 12 officials supervisor expects the most improvement is in determining when an offensive lineman is, or isn’t, illegally blocking downfield.

“The difficulty, in terms of officiating this play, is because the college game has become so spread out, so complex, so fast,” Anderson said. “There’s so many things going on.”

Last season, Anderson said Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days, officials allowed offensive linemen to illegally block downfield too often. He cited Kansas State’s victory at Oklahoma as a prime example, showing several clips of missed calls.

Oklahoma coaches openly criticized officials afterward, and Anderson admitted the officials had a bad day.

NCAA rules allow offensive linemen to block three yards beyond the line of scrimmage before the ball is thrown on a passing play. They are allowed to advance upfield and continue blocking after a pass occurs, but not before.

Judging when a ball is thrown, as opposed to when it’s caught, can be difficult watching games live.

With the emergence of new offensive packages, such as the pop-pass, in which a quarterback fakes a handoff and studies the defense for several seconds before deciding whether to keep the ball for a run or throw it, officials have to keep an eye on blockers.

K-State and Auburn regularly use the pop-pass, and Oklahoma has used it as well.

Ideally, Anderson said, officials would be able to use replays to determine when a foul has been committed, but that is unlikely to happen in a sport that can already lack flow.

“The rule is what the rule is,” Anderson said. “We are going to have to do a better job officiating it.”

New to replay

This season, it will be more important for an official to explain when a tipped ball negates the possibility of a penalty. Anderson said anytime an official signals or tells the crowd that a punt was blocked or a pass was tipped, making penalties such as roughing the kicker and pass interference moot, replay can then be used to determine whether the ball was in fact tipped.

In that past, that has not been a reviewable play. And it will continue to not be reviewable if an official fails to signal that a ball was tipped.

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