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How Eastern Michigan ended up kicking off from the freaking red zone

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If you ever get to kick off from the opposing 20, please onside kick.

We had Eastern Michigan ranked 128th out of the 128 teams in college football before the season, but they’re proving us wrong by putting a legit whooping on Charlotte. (To be fair, we had Charlotte 125th.)

Part of that beatdown included one of the stranger plays you’ll ever see: The Eagles got to kick the ball off from the opposing 20 yard line.

How did this happen? Charlotte earned three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after an Eastern Michigan touchdown. Most of the time, if you commit multiple fouls, the opposition can only accept one — a pass interference is 15 yards, but if you commit offsides on the same play you commit pass interference, the five-yard offside penalty isn’t tacked on.

But with personal fouls, like unsportsmanlike conduct calls, each foul counts. So three unsportsmanlike conduct fouls is 45 yards of penalties, moving the kick from EMU’s 35-yard line to the opposing 20.

EMU had two choices here:

  1. Blast the kick out of the end zone, giving the other team the ball at their 25-yard line
  2. Kick the ball on-sides, giving them a chance to recover the ball less than 10 yards from the opposing end zone.

The answer was easy. They went onside.

Normally you avoid onside kicks, because they give the opposition a chance to score on a short field. But here, even if EMU didn’t recover, Charlotte would have awful field position. The ball could even go out of bounds — normally, this pushes the ball 30 yards from the restraining line, which is typically the 35-yard line, but here, 30 yards from the restraining line is 10 yards deep in the end zone, so the penalty would only be five yards.

EMU didn’t recover, but they were smart enough to go onside.

This has been a primer in strategy for when your team gets to kick off 20 yards from the opposing end zone. Hopefully they get to use it some day!