NCAA Rule 5 – Series Of Downs, Line To Gain

SECTION 1. A Series: Started, Broken, Renewed


ARTICLE 1. When to Award Series



  1. A series (Rule 2-24-1) of up to four consecutive scrimmage downs shall be awarded to the team that is next to put the ball in play by a snap after a free kick, touchback, fair catch or change in team possession, or to the offensive team in overtime.

  2. A new series shall be awarded to Team A if it is in legal possession of the ball on or beyond its line to gain when the ball is declared dead.

  3. A new series shall be awarded to Team B if, after fourth down, Team A has failed to earn a first down. (A.R. 10-1-5:I)

  4. A new series shall be awarded to Team B if Team A’s scrimmage kick goes out of bounds or comes to rest and no player attempts to secure it (Exception: Rule 8-5-1-a).

  5. A new series shall be awarded to the team in legal possession when the ball is declared dead:

    1. If a change of team possession occurs during the down.

    2. If a scrimmage kick crosses the neutral zone (Exceptions: (1) When the down is repeated; (2) Rule 6-3-7).

    3. If an accepted penalty awards the ball to the offended team.

    4. If an accepted penalty mandates a first down.

  6. A new series shall be awarded to Team B whenever Team B, after a scrimmage kick, elects to take the ball at a spot of illegal touching (Exception: When the down is repeated) (Rules 6-3-2-a and 6-3-2-b).

ARTICLE 2. Line to Gain



  1. The line to gain for a series shall be established 10 yards in advance of the most forward point of the ball; but if this line is in the opponents’ end zone, the goal line becomes the line to gain.

  2. The line to gain is established when the ball is made ready for play before the first down of the new series.

ARTICLE 3. Forward Progress




  1. The most forward point of the ball when declared dead between the end lines shall be the determining point in measuring distance gained or lost by either team during any down (Exceptions:

    1. Rule 8-5-1 (A.R. 8-5-1:I)).

    2. When an airborne pass receiver of either team completes a catch inbounds after an opponent has driven him backward and the ball is declared dead at the spot of the catch, the forward progress is where the player received the ball.

      The ball always shall be placed with its length axis parallel to the sideline before measuring. (Rule 4-1-3-p) (A.R. 5-1-3:I, III, IV and VI) (A.R. 7-3-6:V))

  2. Questionable distance for a first down should be measured without request. Unnecessary measurements to determine first downs shall not be granted.

  3. No request for a measurement shall be granted after the ball is ready for play.

Approved ruling 5-1-3


  1. Airborne A1 receives a legal forward pass one yard within the opponent’s end zone. As A1 receives the ball, he is contacted by B1 and first comes to the ground with the catch at the one-yard line, where the ball is declared dead. RULING: Touchdown ( 8-2-1-b). [Cited by 2-9-2, 5-1-3-a-2, 8-2-1-b]
  2. Airborne A1 receives a legal forward pass one yard within Team B’s end zone. As A1 receives the ball, he is contacted by B1 and first comes to the ground, on his feet, with the catch at the one-yard line. After he regains his balance, he runs and is downed at Team B’s five-yard line. RULING: Not a touchdown. Team A’s ball at the spot where the ball is declared dead. [Cited by 2-9-2, 8-2-1-b]
  3. Airborne A2 receives a legal forward pass at Team A’s 35-yard line. As A2 receives the ball, he is contacted by B1 and first comes to the ground with the ball at Team A’s 33-yard line, where the ball is declared dead. RULING: Team A’s ball at the 35-yard line. This is the point of forward progress. [Cited by 2-9-2, 5-1-3-a-2]
  4. A4, with the ball breaking the plane of the 50-yard line while in his possession, dives over the 50-yard line, which is the line to gain for a first down. He is knocked back to Team A’s 49-yard line, where any part of his body except his hand or foot touches the ground. RULING: First down at forward progress spot ( 4-1-3-b). [Cited by 2-9-2, 5-1-3-a-2]
  5. A6 has the ball in his possession and is not controlled by an opponent, as he dives over the 50-yard line, which is the line to gain for a first down, and is forced back across the 50-yard line. A6 continues to run and is tackled at Team A’s 49-yard line, where any part of his body, except his hand or foot, strikes the ground. RULING: No first down. The point of forward progress is Team A’s 49-yard line. [Cited by 2-9-2]
  6. A5, with the ball breaking the plane of the goal line while in his possession, dives over the goal line and is knocked back to the one-yard line, where any part of A5’s body except his hand or foot touches the ground. RULING: Touchdown. The ball is dead when it breaks the plane of the goal line in A5’s possession. [Cited by 2-9-2, 5-1-3-a-2]

ARTICLE 4. Continuity of Downs Broken


The continuity of a series of scrimmage downs is broken when:

  1. Team possession of the ball changes during a down.

  2. A scrimmage kick crosses the neutral zone.

  3. A kick goes out of bounds.

  4. A kick comes to rest and no player attempts to secure it.

  5. At the end of a down, Team A has earned a first down.

  6. After fourth down, Team A has failed to earn a first down.

  7. An accepted penalty mandates a first down.

  8. There is a score.

  9. A touchback is awarded to either team.

  10. The second period ends.

  11. The fourth period ends.