Memphis Got A 93-Yard Punt Return Touchdown Cause Mississippi State Left The Ball On The Ground (UPDATE)

Memphis Got A 93-Yard Punt Return Touchdown Cause Mississippi State Left The Ball On The Ground (UPDATE)

Football has a lot of strange rules, particularly when it comes to special teams.

For example, Florida learned the hard way on Saturday that, while the ball is dead for a touchback if it bounces in the end zone, if a player tries to field it first and drops it, it is not, which led to them starting a drive on the 1.

However, that doesn’t hold a candle to the rules miscue made by Mississippi State on Saturday in Memphis, where a punt coverage mistake led to a 93-yard touchdown for the Tigers. The rule on punts is, once the kicking team touches the ball, the receiving team can touch the ball with no penalty (i.e., if they touch it but don’t control it, it’s not a fumble), which is why returners on smart teams are taught to always try and run in and grab the ball to return it once the coverage unit touches the ball but hasn’t fully downed it.

So, when Mississippi State knocked the ball back but never controlled it, leaving the ball sitting on the 7, Memphis’ return man wisely swooped in, scooped it up, and ran it for a touchdown that had everyone stunned.

It is, truly, one of the smartest plays you’ll see in football all year and shows the value of having a good special teams coach to drill these rules into your players. For Mississippi State, though, it’s infuriating in particular because the back judge is running in to mark the ball but hadn’t yet blown his whistle, so while he looks like he’s getting set to blow it dead, he hasn’t and Memphis is able to scoop it up and get the strangest punt return touchdown of the season to push their lead out to 11 points.

UPDATE: In case Mississippi State wasn’t mad enough, the SEC released a statement saying they should’ve reviewed the play and, because the back judge was waving his arms even though he hadn’t blown his whistle, that signal should’ve halted play and the ball should’ve been dead at the 7 (although, it was an errant signal and shouldn’t have happened). Also Memphis had two guys wearing the same number on the field and that too should’ve been a penalty.