NCAA Rule 7 – Snapping and Passing the Ball

SECTION 3. Forward Pass

ARTICLE 1. Legal Forward Pass

Team A may make one forward pass during each scrimmage down before team possession changes, provided the pass is thrown from a point in or behind the neutral zone.

ARTICLE 2. Illegal Forward Pass

A forward pass is illegal if:

  1. It is thrown by a Team A player whose entire body is beyond the neutral zone when he releases the ball.
  2. It is thrown by a Team B player.
  3. It is thrown after team possession has changed during the down.
  4. It is the second forward pass during the same down.
  5. It is thrown from in or behind the neutral zone after a ball carrier’s entire body and the ball have gone beyond the neutral zone.

    PENALTY –
    [a-e] Five yards from the spot of the foul; also loss of down if by Team A before team possession changes during a scrimmage down (A.R. 3-4-3:IV) and (A.R. 7-3-2:II) [S35 and S9].
  6. The forward passer, to conserve time, throws the ball directly to the ground (1) after the ball has already touched the ground; or (2) not immediately after controlling the ball.
  7. The forward passer, to conserve time, throws the ball forward into an area where there is no eligible Team A receiver.
    (A.R. 7-3-2:II-VII)
  8. The forward passer, to conserve yardage, throws the ball forward into an area where there is no eligible Team A receiver (A.R. 7-3-2:I) [Exception: If the forward passer is or has been outside the tackle box, he may throw the ball so that it crosses or lands beyond the neutral zone or neutral zone extended (Rule 2-19-3) or would have crossed the neutral zone if not touched by Team B. (A.R. 7-3-2:VIII-X) This applies only to the player who controls the snap or the resulting backward pass and does not relinquish possession to another player before throwing the forward pass.]
  9. PENALTY – [f-h] Loss of down at the spot of the foul [S36 and S9]

Approved ruling 7-3-2

  1. Quarterback A10, who is not outside the tackle box and is attempting to save yardage, intentionally throws a desperation forward pass that falls incomplete where there is no eligible Team A receiver. RULING: Intentional grounding. Penalty — Loss of down at the spot of the foul. The clock starts on the snap (Rule 3-3-2-d-4) unless Rule 3-4-4 applies. [Cited by 7-3-2-h]
  2. Late in either half with more than one minute remaining, A10 is unable to locate an open receiver. To conserve time, he throws a forward pass that is incomplete where there is no eligible Team A player. RULING: Illegal forward pass, intentional grounding. Penalty — Loss of down at the spot of the foul. The clock will start on the ready-for-play signal (Rule 3-3-2-e-14 and 3-4-3). [Cited by 3-3-2-e-14, 7-3-2-g, 7-3-2 Penalty]
  3. On third down near the end of either half, potential field goal holder A4 muffs the snap and A4 or potential kicker A3 recovers the ball and immediately throws it forward to the ground. RULING: Illegal forward pass for intentional grounding; not a valid attempt to conserve time. Penalty — Loss of down at the spot of the foul. 10-second subtraction option for Team B (Rule 3-4-4). Clock starts on the ready-for-play signal (Rules 3-3-2-e-14 and 3-4-3) if the 10-second subtraction is accepted. [Cited by 3-3-2-e-14, 7-3-2-g]
  4. The ball is snapped over the head of quarterback A12, who is in the “shotgun” formation. A12 recovers the ball and immediately throws it forward to the ground. RULING: Illegal forward pass, not a valid attempt to conserve time. Penalty — Loss of down at the spot of the foul. Clock starts on the ready-for-play signal (Rules 3-3-2-e-14 and 3-4-3). [Cited by 3-3-2-e-14, 7-3-2-g]
  5. On third down near the end of the half, A1 muffs the snap. A1 or A4 catches the muffed ball and immediately throws it forward into the ground. RULING: Legal play. [Cited by 3-3-2-e-14, 7-3-2-g]
  6. On third down near the end of the half, A1 – positioned seven yards behind the snapper – catches the snap and immediately throws the ball forward to the ground. RULING: Legal play. [Cited by 3-3-2-e-14, 7-3-2-g]
  7. With seconds remaining in a half and the ball ready for play, Team A quickly lines up and the ball is legally snapped to quarterback A12, who throws the ball forward directly to the ground. Team A’s formation was not legal at the snap. When the ball becomes dead, two seconds show on the game clock. RULING: Illegal formation. Penalty — Five yards from the previous spot. The clock starts on the snap. [Cited by 3-3-2-e-14, 7-3-2-g]
  8. Quarterback A10 sprints toward a sideline and is outside the tackle box when he throws a legal forward pass that is batted down by a defensive lineman and lands behind the neutral zone. RULING: Legal play. Without the batting the ball would have landed beyond the neutral zone, so A10 has satisfied the spirit of the rule. [Cited by 7-3-2-h]
  9. Third and five at the A-40. QB A12 drops back in the pocket to pass. Under a heavy rush he throws a backward pass to back A22 who carries the ball outside the tackle box. About to be tackled, A22 at the A-35 throws a forward pass that crosses the neutral zone and lands in an area 20 yards away from the nearest Team A eligible receiver. RULING: Foul, intentional grounding. The tackle-box rule exception applies only to the player who controls the snap or the resulting backward pass. Loss of down at the spot of the foul. Fourth and 10 at the A-35. (Rule 7-3-2-h Exception) [Cited by 7-3-2-h]
  10. Quarterback A12 is in a shotgun formation. He muffs the backward pass from the snapper and the ball is picked up by A63 inside the tackle box. Under a heavy rush, A63 gets outside the tackle box and throws the ball incomplete beyond the line of scrimmage. RULING: Legal play. A63 controlled the backward pass that resulted from the snap. (Rule 7-3-2-h Exception) [Cited by 7-3-2-h]

ARTICLE 3. Eligibility to Touch Legal Forward Pass

  1. Eligibility rules apply during a down when a legal forward pass is thrown.
  2. All Team B players are eligible to touch or catch a pass.
  3. When the ball is snapped, the following Team A players are eligible:
    1. Each lineman who is on the end of his scrimmage line and who is wearing a number other than 50 through 79.
    2. Each back wearing a number other than 50 through 79.
  4. An eligible player loses his eligibility when he goes out of bounds. (Rule 7-3-4) (A.R. 7-3-9:III)

ARTICLE 4. Eligibility Lost by Going Out of Bounds

No eligible offensive receiver who goes out of bounds and returns in bounds during a down shall touch a legal forward pass in the field of play or end zones or while airborne until it has been touched by an opponent or official. (A.R. 7-3-4:I-II and IV) [Exception: This does not apply to an originally eligible offensive player who immediately returns inbounds after going out of bounds due to contact by an opponent (A.R. 7-3-4:III)]. If he touches the pass before returning in bounds, it is an incomplete pass (Rule 7-3-7) and not a foul for illegal touching.

PENALTY –
Loss of down at the previous spot [S16 and S9].

Approved ruling 7-3-4

  1. Eligible A88 voluntarily goes out of bounds, returns inbounds, and is the first player to touch the legal forward pass. This touching by A88 occurs in Team B’s end zone. RULING: Illegal touching. Penalty — Loss of down at the previous spot. [Cited by 7-3-4]
  2. Eligible A88 voluntarily goes out of bounds during a down in which a legal forward pass is thrown. He returns to the field of play but does not touch the ball and is held by an opponent before the ball is touched by any player. RULING: Not pass interference – A88 is not eligible to catch a legal forward pass. Penalty — 10 yards from the previous spot. [Cited by 7-3-4]
  3. Wide receiver A88 is blocked out of bounds by B1 and then runs 20 yards before returning to the field of play. A88 catches a legal pass in Team B’s end zone. RULING: Foul for illegal touching due to A88’s failure to return inbounds immediately. Penalty — Loss of down at the previous spot. [Cited by 7-3-4]
  4. Eligible receiver A44 is running a pass pattern near the sideline. As a legal forward pass comes toward him, he accidentally steps on the sideline, leaps, muffs the pass into the air while airborne, returns to the ground inbounds, grabs the ball and lands on his knees inbounds with the ball firmly in his possession. RULING: Incomplete pass. A44 first touched the ball while airborne and thus out of bounds since he had not established in bounds. (Rule 2-27-15) [Cited by 7-3-4]

ARTICLE 5. Eligibility Gained or Regained


When a Team B player or an official touches a legal forward pass, all
players become eligible.
(A.R. 7-3-5:I)

Approved ruling 7-3-5

  1. Team B touches the legal forward pass near a sideline while originally eligible A1 is out of bounds. A1 comes inbounds and touches the pass. RULING: Legal play. Touching by Team B made all players eligible during the remainder of the down. [Cited by 7-3-5]

ARTICLE 6. Complete Pass

Any forward pass is complete when caught by a player of the passing team who is inbounds, and the ball continues in play unless completed in the opponent’s end zone or the pass has been caught simultaneously by opposing players. If a forward pass is caught simultaneously by opposing players inbounds, the ball becomes dead and belongs to the passing team (Rules 2-4-3 and 2-4-4). (A.R. 2-4-3:III) (A.R. 7-3-6:I-VIII)

Approved ruling 7-3-6

  1. Two opposing players receive a legal forward pass while both are off the ground, and both players return to the ground inbounds at the same time. RULING: Simultaneous catch; the ball is awarded to the passing team (Rule 2-4-4). [Cited by 2-4-4, 7-3-6]
  2. Two opposing players receive a ball while both are off the ground, and one player returns to the ground inbounds before the other. RULING: No simultaneous catch. The legal forward pass is completed or intercepted by the player who first returned to the ground (Rule 2-4-4). [Cited by 2-4-4, 7-3-6]
  3. An inbounds airborne player receives a legal forward pass. While still in the air, he is tackled by an opponent and obviously held for a moment before being carried in any direction. He then lands inbounds or out of bounds with the ball. RULING: Completed pass. The ball is dead at the yard line where the receiver/interceptor was held in a manner that prevented him from immediately returning to the ground (Rule 4-1-3-p). [Cited by 4-1-3-p, 7-3-6]
  4. Airborne A80 receives a legal forward pass at his 30-yard line. While still in the air, he is tackled by B40 and driven forward to team A’s 34-yard line, where he is downed. RULING: Team A’s ball at its 34-yard line (Rule 5-1-3-a). [Cited by 7-3-6]
  5. Airborne A80 receives a legal forward pass at his 30-yard line. While still in the air, he is tackled by B40 and driven backward to team A’s 26-yard line, where the ball becomes dead. RULING: Team A’s ball at the 30-yard line (Rule 5-1-3-a Exception). [Cited by 5-1-3-a-2, 7-3-6]
  6. A86 is legally blocked out of bounds by B18 at Team B’s two-yard line. A86, while attempting an immediate return to the field of play, leaps from out of bounds and is airborne as he receives A16’s legal forward pass. He lands in Team B’s end zone with the ball in his grasp. RULING: Incomplete pass. A86 did not establish in bounds before touching the pass, and hence he was still out of bounds. (Rule 2-27-15) [Cited by 7-3-6]
  7. B33 leaps from in bounds and is airborne as he receives Team A’s legal forward pass. He completes the interception by landing (a) in the field of play or (b) in Team B’s end zone, and is then tackled. RULING: B33 is a ball carrier until he loses player possession or the ball becomes dead by rule. (a) First and 10 for Team B. (b) Touchback. (Rules 4-1-3-c, 4-2-3-a, 5-1-1-e and 7-3-4). [Cited by 7-3-6]
  8. While airborne and in bounds, eligible receiver A89 touches a forward pass when he propels it toward (a) eligible receiver A80, who catches the pass; or (b) B27, who intercepts the pass. RULING: Legal play, and the ball remains live in both (a) and (b). A89 has batted a forward pass (Rules 2-4-3, 2-11-3 and 9-4-1-a). [Cited by 7-3-6]
  9. Airborne receiver A85 grasps a forward pass and in the process of going to the ground, first contacts the ground with his left foot as he falls to the ground inbounds. Immediately upon A85 hitting the ground, the ball comes loose and touches the ground. RULING: Incomplete pass. An airborne receiver must maintain control of the ball while going to the ground in the process of completing a catch.
  10. Airborne receiver A85 grasps a forward pass and in the process of going to the ground, first contacts the ground with his left foot as he falls to the ground inbounds. Immediately upon A85 hitting the ground, the ball comes loose but never touches the ground before he regains control. RULING: Catch. If the receiver is inbounds and is going to the ground and loses control, as long as the player remains inbounds and the ball never touches the ground, it is a completed pass.
  11. Airborne receiver A85 grasps a forward pass and in the process of going to the ground, first contacts the ground with his left foot inbounds as he falls to the ground out of bounds. Immediately upon A85 hitting the ground out of bounds, the ball comes loose. RULING: Incomplete pass regardless of whether or not the ball hits the ground because the receiver is out of bounds.
  12. Receiver A85 stretches out at the Team B two-yard line and grasps a forward pass and is going to the ground on his own as he is attempting to complete the catch. As A85 falls to the ground in the end zone, the ball immediately comes loose and falls to the ground. RULING: Incomplete pass. Any receiver going to the ground on his own in the process of making a catch must maintain control of the ball when he hits the ground.
  13. Receiver A85 is airborne and in bounds in the end zone and grasps a forward pass, but while airborne he is hit by a defender, which causes A85 to fall to the ground. Immediately upon A85 hitting the ground, the ball comes loose and strikes the ground. RULING: Incomplete pass. An airborne receiver contacted before completing all the requirements of a catch must still maintain control of the ball after hitting the ground.
  14. Eligible A80 is airborne when he receives a legal forward pass. He grasps the ball firmly in his hands, and as he is returning toward the ground, the nose of the football touches the ground before any part of his body. A80 retains his firm control of the ball and it does not move during this action. A80’s knees then touch the ground and he maintains control of the ball. RULING: Completed pass.
  15. Eligible A80 is airborne near the sideline when he receives a legal forward pass. As he comes to the ground facing the field of play, his toe (a) clearly drags the ground inbounds before he falls out of bounds; (b) touches the ground inbounds and then his heel comes down on the sideline in a continuous motion. He maintains firm control of the ball in both cases. RULING: (a) Complete pass. (b) Incomplete pass. The continuous toe-heel touching is part of a single process and by interpretation he has landed out of bounds, thus not executing a catch.

ARTICLE 7. Incomplete Pass

  1. Any forward pass is incomplete if the ball is out of bounds by rule (Rule 4-2-3) or if it touches the ground when not firmly controlled by a player. It also is incomplete when a player leaves his feet and receives the pass but first lands on or outside a boundary line, unless his progress has been stopped in the field of play or end zone (Rule 4-1-3-p). (A.R. 2-4-3:III) (A.R. 7-3-7:I)
  2. When a legal forward pass is incomplete, the ball belongs to the passing team at the previous spot.
  3. When an illegal forward pass is incomplete, the ball belongs to the passing team at the spot of the pass (Exception: If the offended team declines the penalty for an illegal pass thrown from the end zone, the ball shall next be put in play at the previous spot.) (A.R. 7-3-7:II-III)

Approved ruling 7-3-7

  1. A player touches a legal forward pass (a) while he is contacting a boundary line; (b) while airborne after having leaped from out of bounds. RULING: (a) and (b). The ball is out of bounds, the pass is incomplete, and the down counts. The player loses his eligibility when he goes out of bounds (Rules 2-27-15, 4-2-3-a and 7-3-3). [Cited by 7-3-7-a]
  2. Fourth and nine on Team A’s six-yard line. A1 intentionally grounds a forward pass in his end zone to save loss of yardage. RULING: Team B may accept the penalty for a safety. If they decline the penalty, it is Team B’s ball, first and goal on the six-yard line. [Cited by 7-3-7-c]
  3. Third and nine on Team A’s six-yard line. A1 throws a second forward pass from his end zone. B2 intercepts and is downed on Team A’s 20-yard line. RULING: Team B may accept the penalty which results in a safety or take the result of the play, retaining the ball for a first down on Team A’s 20-yard line. [Cited by 7-3-7-c]

ARTICLE 8. Illegal Contact and Pass Interference

  1. During a down in which a legal forward pass crosses the neutral zone, illegal contact by Team A and Team B players is prohibited from the time the ball is snapped until it is touched by any player or an official. (A.R. 7-3-8:II)
  2. Offensive pass interference is contact by a Team A player beyond the neutral zone that interferes with a Team B player during a legal forward pass play in which the forward pass crosses the neutral zone. It is the responsibility of the offensive player to avoid the opponents. It is not offensive pass interference (A.R. 7-3-8:IV, V, X, XV and XVI):
    1. When, after the snap, a Team A ineligible player immediately charges and contacts an opponent at a point not more than one yard beyond the neutral zone and maintains the contact for no more than three yards beyond the neutral zone.
    2. When two or more eligible players are making a simultaneous and bona fide attempt to reach, catch or bat the pass. Eligible players of either team have equal rights to the ball. (A.R. 7-3-8:IX)
    3. When the pass is in flight and two or more eligible players are in the area where they might receive or intercept the pass and an offensive player in that area impedes an opponent, and the pass is not catchable.

    PENALTY –
    15 yards from the previous spot[S33].

  3. Defensive pass interference is contact beyond the neutral zone by a Team B player whose intent to impede an eligible opponent is obvious and it could prevent the opponent the opportunity of receiving a catchable forward pass. When in question, a legal forward pass is catchable. Defensive pass interference occurs only after a legal forward pass is thrown. (A.R. 7-3-8:VII, VIII, XI and XII): It is not defensive pass interference (A.R. 7-3-8:III) (A.R. 7-3-9:III):
    1. When, after the snap, opposing players immediately charge and establish contact with opponents at a point that is within one yard beyond the neutral zone.
    2. When two or more eligible players are making a simultaneous and bona fide attempt to reach, catch or bat the pass. Eligible players of either team have equal rights to the ball. (A.R. 7-3-8:IX)
    3. When a Team B player legally contacts an opponent before the pass is thrown. (A.R. 7-3-8:III and X)
    4. When there is contact by a Team B player that otherwise would be pass interference during a down in which a Team A potential kicker, from scrimmage kick formation, simulates a scrimmage kick by throwing the ball high and deep.

PENALTY –
Team A’s ball at the spot of the foul, first down, if the foul occurs fewer than 15 yards beyond the previous spot. If the foul occurs 15 or more yards beyond the previous spot, Team A’s ball, first down, 15 yards from the previous spot [S33].
When the ball is snapped on or inside the Team B 17-yard line and outside the Team B two-yard line and the spot of the foul is on or inside the two-yard line, the penalty from the previous spot shall place the ball at the two-yard line, first down. (A.R. 7-3-8:XIV)
No penalty enforced from outside the two-yard line may place the ball inside the two-yard line (Exception: On the try when the snap is at the three-yard line, Rule 10-2-5-b).
If the previous spot was on or inside the two-yard line, first down halfway between the previous spot and the goal line (Rule 10-2-6 Exception).


Approved ruling 7-3-8

  1. A Team B player, defending against a legal forward pass beyond the neutral zone, has his back to the ball and is waving his arms in the face of an eligible player of Team A, who, in his attempt to catch the pass, bumps into the Team B player. RULING: Pass interference by the Team B player, first down. He was not making a bona fide attempt to catch or bat the pass.
  2. Wide receiver A80, 15 yards beyond the neutral zone, turns his back toward the neutral zone. The forward passer throws the ball high over A80’s hands, which are extended above his head. The ball is overthrown and beyond the receiver (uncatchable pass) when B2 pulls A80 down by the facemask. RULING: Personal foul (Rule 9-1-12-a), not pass interference. Penalty — 15 yards from the previous spot. First and 10 for Team A. Flagrant offenders shall be disqualified. [Cited by 7-3-8-a]
  3. A83, a wide receiver 10 yards from the nearest interior lineman, slants toward the middle of the field. Before the ball is thrown, B1, a back, legally blocks him and knocks him down. RULING: Legal unless the block was below the waist (Rule 9-1-6). [Cited by 7-3-8-c-3, 7-3-8-c]
  4. At the snap, A88 is on the line of scrimmage 10 yards from the tackle position and A44 is in the backfield, four yards to his inside. Just before the Team A forward passer releases the ball, A88 contacts B1 five yards beyond the neutral zone. The pass is thrown to A44, who has moved in front and to the outside of the spot where A88 had contacted B1. RULING: Team A foul, offensive pass interference. Penalty — 15 yards from previous spot. [Cited by 7-3-8-b]
  5. Before the ball is thrown, wide receiver A88 moves four yards downfield directly toward and in front of the defender, B1. At this spot, B1 pushes A88, who then uses his hands to contact B1. RULING: Team A foul, offensive pass interference, if the legal forward pass is beyond the neutral zone. Penalty — 15 yards from previous spot. [Cited by 7-3-8-b]
  6. Before the ball is thrown, wide receiver A88 slants to the inside where linebacker B1 attempts to block him. A88 uses his hands to shove B1 away. RULING: Team A foul, offensive pass interference if the legal forward pass crosses the neutral zone. If B1’s initial contact was below the waist and beyond the neutral zone, Team B also has fouled and the live-ball fouls offset.
  7. A88, a spread receiver, runs a 10-yard route and cuts 90 degrees to the sideline. After the ball is thrown, B2 contacts A88 with a tackle, block, grasp or push before A88 touches the ball, a catchable forward pass. RULING: Team B foul, defensive pass interference. Penalty — Spot foul and first down. [Cited by 7-3-8-c]
  8. A80, a tight end, runs 10 yards into the secondary and cuts toward the goal posts. B1 is one step behind and to the outside when he recovers. After the legal forward pass has been thrown, B1 contacts A80 with a tackle, block, grasp or push as the ball goes over A80’s outstretched hands. RULING: Team B foul for defensive pass interference. Penalty — Spot foul and a first down if infraction occurs less than 15 yards from previous spot; 15-yard penalty from the previous spot and a first down if the foul is more than 15 yards beyond the neutral zone. [Cited by 7-3-8-c]
  9. A88 and B2 are running closely together before or after the ball has been thrown. Either A88 or B2, or both, falls when their feet become entangled. Neither player was tripped intentionally. RULING: No foul. [Cited by 7-3-8-b-2, 7-3-8-c-2]
  10. Before the pass is thrown, wide receiver A88 and defender B1 are running shoulder to shoulder and side by side 15 yards beyond the neutral zone. A88 is nearest to the sideline, and B1 is nearest to the hash mark. A88 breaks to the inside. B1 does not move, and A88 collides with him. RULING: No foul because the ball has not been thrown. [Cited by 7-3-8-b, 7-3-8-c-3]
  11. Wide receiver A88 and defender B1 are running shoulder to shoulder and side by side 15 yards beyond the neutral zone. A88 is nearest to the sideline, and B1 is nearest to the hash mark. A legal forward pass is thrown toward the goal post. While the ball is in the air, A88 breaks to the inside toward the catchable forward pass. B1 does not move and makes no attempt to go for the pass, and A88 collides with him. RULING: Team B foul, defensive pass interference. Penalty — 15 yards from previous spot and first down. [Cited by 7-3-8-c]
  12. A44, a slot back, runs a pattern 25 yards downfield toward the goal line pylon. B1, a safety, is positioned between A44 and the pylon when the ball is thrown. B1 obviously reduces his speed and collides with A44 before the catchable ball touches the ground. RULING: Team B foul, defensive pass interference. Penalty — 15 yards from the previous spot and first down. [Cited by 7-3-8-c]
  13. A80, a tight end, moves across the formation on a pass pattern at a depth of 25 yards where he contacts B1, a safety, before or after the ball has been thrown. A88, a wide receiver, positioned on the opposite side from the tight end at the snap, crosses behind the contact of A80 and B1 and catches the legal forward pass. RULING: Team A foul, offensive pass interference. Penalty — 15 yards from previous spot.
  14. Fourth and goal for Team A on Team B’s five-yard line. Team A’s legal forward pass is incomplete, but Team B interfered on its one-yard line or in its end zone. RULING: First and goal for Team A on Team B’s two-yard line. [Cited by 7-3-8 Penalty]
  15. A80 and B60 are attempting to catch a forward pass thrown toward A80’s position, which is beyond the neutral zone. The pass is high and ruled uncatchable. As the ball passes overhead, A80 pushes B60 in the chest. RULING: Not offensive pass interference. [Cited by 7-3-8-b]
  16. On a legal forward pass beyond the neutral zone, A80 and B60 are attempting to catch the pass thrown to A80’s position. A14, who is not attempting to catch the pass, blocks B65 downfield, either before the pass is thrown or while the uncatchable pass is in flight. RULING: Team A foul, offensive pass interference. Penalty — 15 yards from the previous spot. [Cited by 7-3-8-b]

ARTICLE 9. Pass Interference: Summary

  1. Either Team A or Team B legally may interfere with opponents behind the neutral zone.
  2. Players of either team legally may interfere beyond the neutral zone after the pass has been touched. (A.R. 7-3-9:I)
  3. Defensive players legally may contact opponents who have crossed the neutral zone if the opponents are not in a position to receive a catchable forward pass.
    1. Those infractions that occur during a down in which a forward pass crosses the neutral zone are pass interference infractions only if the receiver had the opportunity to receive a catchable forward pass.
    2. Those infractions that occur during a down in which a forward pass does not cross the neutral zone are Rule 9-3-4 infractions and the penalty is enforced from the previous spot.
  4. Pass interference rules apply only during a down in which a legal forward pass crosses the neutral zone (Rules 2-19-3 and 7-3-8-a, b and c).
  5. Contact by Team B with an eligible receiver involving a personal foul that interferes with the reception of a catchable pass may be ruled either as pass interference or as a personal foul with the 15-yard penalty enforced from the previous spot. Rule 7-3-8 is specific about contact during a pass. However if the interference involves an act that ordinarily would result in disqualification, the fouling player is disqualified from the game.
  6. Physical contact is required to establish interference.
  7. Each player has territorial rights, and incidental contact is ruled under “attempt to reach … the pass” in Rule 7-3-8. If opponents who are beyond the line collide while moving toward the pass, a foul by one or both players occurs only if intent to impede the opponent is obvious. It is pass interference only if a catchable forward pass is involved.
  8. Pass interference rules do not apply after the pass has been touched anywhere inbounds by an inbounds player or has touched an official. If an opponent is fouled, the penalty is for the foul and not pass interference. (A.R. 7-3-9:I)
  9. After the pass has been touched, any player may execute a legal block during the remaining flight of the pass.
  10. Tackling or grasping a receiver or any other intentional contact before he touches the pass is evidence that the tackler is disregarding the ball and is therefore illegal.
  11. Tackling or running into a receiver when a forward pass obviously is underthrown or overthrown is disregarding the ball and is illegal. This is not pass interference but a violation of Rule 9-1-12-a, which carries a penalty of 15 yards from the previous spot plus a first down. Flagrant offenders shall be disqualified.

Approved ruling 7-3-9

  1. A legal forward pass beyond the neutral zone is tipped or muffed by an eligible receiver of either team or glances off an official. Then, while the pass is still in flight, either Team A or Team B holds or otherwise fouls an eligible opponent who is beyond the neutral zone. RULING: Interference rules do not apply after the pass has been touched. Penalise as a foul during a loose ball. Penalty — 10 or 15 yards from the previous spot (Rule 9-3-7). [Cited by 7-3-9-b, 7-3-9-h, 9-3-7]
  2. On a legal forward pass behind the neutral zone, eligible A1 “has position” on B1 and is about to touch the pass when B1 pushes A1 and the pass is incomplete. RULING: Legal. Interference rules do not apply behind the neutral zone (Rules 7-3-9-d, 9-1-5 Exception 4 and 9-3-6 Exception 5).
  3. Running a pattern near the sideline, end A88 touches the sideline just before a defender jumps into him and bats the ball to the ground. RULING: Not defensive pass interference. A88 became ineligible when he stepped out of bounds. (Rule 7-3-3) [Cited by 7-3-3-d, 7-3-8-c]

ARTICLE 10. Ineligible Receiver Downfield

No originally ineligible receiver shall be or have been more than three yards beyond the neutral zone until a forward passer throws a legal forward pass that crosses the neutral zone. A player is in violation of this rule if any part of his body is beyond the three-yard limit (A.R. 7-3-10:I and III).

PENALTY – Five yards from the previous spot [S37].

Approved ruling 7-3-10

  1. Ineligible lineman A70 runs more than three yards beyond the neutral zone and does not make contact with an opponent. He circles toward the flank and returns across the neutral zone before A10 throws a legal forward pass that crosses the neutral zone. RULING: Ineligible downfield. Penalty — Five yards from the previous spot. [Cited by 7-3-10]
  2. Ineligible lineman A70 makes contact with an opponent within one yard of the neutral zone. A70 drives B4 more than three yards beyond the neutral zone and then circles back across the neutral zone before A1 throws a legal forward pass that crosses the neutral zone. RULING: Team A foul, ineligible downfield or offensive pass interference. Penalty — Five yards from previous spot or 15 yards from previous spot (Rule 7-3-8-b). [Cited by 7-3-10]

ARTICLE 11. Illegal Touching

No originally ineligible player while inbounds may intentionally touch a legal forward pass until it has touched an opponent or an official. (A.R. 5-2-3:I) (A.R. 7-3-11:I-II)

PENALTY – Five yards from the previous spot [S16].

Approved ruling 7-3-11

  1. Late in the half, quarterback A10, who has not been outside the tackle box, throws a desperation pass to intentionally save yardage that falls incomplete after ineligible A58 touches the ball in an attempt to catch it. RULING: Foul for intentional grounding. No foul for illegal touching since the pass is illegal. Penalty — Loss of down at the spot of the pass. The clock starts on the snap (Rules 3-3-2-d-4 and 7-3-2-h). Rule 3-4-4 applies if less than one minute remains on the game clock. If time expires in the quarter the quarter is not extended. [Cited by 7-3-11]
  2. Team A snaps on its 10-yard line. A10 retreats and then passes forward to ineligible A70 who, while in his end zone, (a) touches the ball as he attempts to catch the pass, and the pass is incomplete; (b) catches the pass and is downed in the end zone; or (c) catches the pass and is downed after having advanced to his three-yard line. RULING: (a) Team B may accept the penalty to get the five yards or decline the penalty so the down will count. (b) The ball is dead in the end zone with impetus by Team A, and Team B may accept the safety or the penalty at the previous spot. (c) The down counts if the penalty is declined and the dead-ball spot is more advantageous to Team B than the penalty. [NOTE: (a), (b) and (c) could be intentional grounding depending on the location of an eligible Team A player or the location of A10 when the ball is thrown] (Rule 10-1-1-b). If intentional grounding is warranted, there is no illegal touching. [Cited by 7-3-11]

ARTICLE 12. Team B personal foul during legal forward pass play

Penalties for personal fouls by Team B during a completed legal forward pass play are enforced at the end of the last run when it ends beyond the neutral zone. If the pass is incomplete or intercepted, or if there is a change of team possession during the down, the penalty is enforced at the previous spot. (Rule 9-1 Penalty) (A.R. 7-3-12:I) (A.R. 9-1-2:III)

Approved ruling 7-3-12

  1. A11 throws a forward pass intended for A88. During the play defensive end B88 is flagged for a head-slap to tackle A79. The pass to A88 is (a) complete for a 10-yard gain to the A-30 where A88 is tackled; (b) incomplete or intercepted. RULING: (a) The penalty is enforced at the A-30; first and 10 for Team A at the A-45. (b) The penalty is enforced at the previous spot, first and 10 for Team A at the A-35. (Rule 9-1 Penalty) [Cited by 10-2-2-e-1, 7-3-12]