Hypothetical Land is not a good place to live, but there's been one rattling around in my head since Saturday's memorable finish at Memorial Stadium.
What if Quincy Enunwa had caught that pass the play before? Four seconds left. Clock stops to move the chains. You run up and spike it and try about a 45-yarder to send it to overtime. Simple as that, right?
Well, it got me wondering about the new rule, that seems vaguely understood by about everyone, that a team can't spike the ball to stop the clock within three seconds. That's at least how many writers have explained it, most notably after the Wisconsin-Arizona State game, sometimes calling it "the 3-second rule."
By the wording of the rule, though, it's more like a 2-second rule.
Here's a good breakdown of the new rule, with the exact wording:
Rule 3, Section 2, Article 5:
“a. If the game clock is stopped and will start on the referee’s signal with three or more seconds remaining in the quarter, the offense may reasonably expect to throw the ball directly to the ground (Rule 7-3-2-e) and have enough time for another play.
“b. With two seconds or one second on the game clock there is enough time for only one play. (A.R. 3-3-5-I)”
So, had there been four seconds left after an Enunwa catch, clocking it should have been fine for Nebraska to do as long as players hurried over the ball and snapped it on the whistle after the chains were set.
But it's a new rule, and because it's new, it's not understood very well, especially when you're asking 11 guys on a field to all understand it the same way in the heat of the moment.
I asked Ron Kellogg about the rule yesterday, but admittedly neither of us had a very good grasp of the exact wording of the rule at that time.
“We probably would have fake spiked it and thrown it to the end zone," Kellogg said about the hypothetical next play had Enunwa caught it.
But after reviewing the situation and wording of the rule, it's more likely Nebraska would have been able to pull off what senior offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles thinks would have happened.
"If it was three seconds, I think we would have been out of luck," Sirles said.
But with four seconds left?
"I think we would have tried to run up there and spike it as fast as we could and get our field goal unit out there," Sirles said.
What everyone agreed upon was they're glad Enunwa dropped it.
"Fate, so to say, or blessing disguise, or serendipity, whatever you want to say, that Quincy didn't catch that ball," Sirles said.
Anyhow, it's an interesting rule to keep in mind when you watch end-of-game situations.
And being that we like interactivity on this blog, any officials out there who want to add to the discussion should do so.