Contrary to popular belief, you can't always "play to the whistle" on every play of a football game. The defender cannot hit a quarterback after he slides or it will be a penalty. If a kick returner or receiver takes a knee and gives himself up, players on the other team can't still go and hit him. If someone has the ball and is already down, but not by contact, you can't go ahead and lay the hammer on him or you might get an unnecessary roughness penalty.
What do all of these situations have in common? The person with the ball is deemed to have given himself up on the play and thus the play is over. These rules are for safety reasons as much as anything because a player is never more vulnerable than when he is already on the ground. It makes sense, right? The offensive player gives up the right to any additional yardage in trade for not getting the hell knocked out of him while he is already down or taking a knee.
Well, the same could apply to a kneel-down situation at the end of a game. When teams line up to do the kneel down, most of them do so with their linemen getting in more of a shielding stance than a regular come-off-and-knock-you-off-the-ball stance. Their job is just to step inside and make sure nobody comes in unmolested to hit the quarterback before he can take the snap and kneel down to run the clock out. The running backs are positioned around the quarterback just to make sure that if the offensive line does break down, they can either block or recover any potential fumble. They aren't lined up in any form or fashion where they could actually run an offensive play meant to get positive yardage. The whole offense is in effect giving itself up, saying we will trade not gaining any more positive yardage for keeping the clock running.
Now just as a safety issue, there is almost no stance you can get in that will prepare you to take on a bunch of guys diving at your knees from all angles. About the best you could hope for is to fall forward and get low enough that they never make it to your legs. But that's the most you can ask for if you are lined up in a regular offensive lineman stance. Because offensive linemen are rarely in their regular stance in a kneel-down formation, it's about impossible for them to protect their knees.
Similarly, any diving over the top would be hard to stop because the offensive line is only focused on one thing and that is stepping inside and keeping immediate threats away from the quarterback. That would force the running backs to try to take on any defenders trying to jump over the top, which could be catastrophic for either guy. If the running back clips his legs, there is a high probability that he will end up falling on his head. If the running back mistimes the block, he could catch the full force of the blow right around his head area. Concussion? Hello!
My biggest issue with the assholes who coach this kind of crap is that it has never worked the best that I can tell. Let's be clear by what I mean by "worked." Yes, it has forced a fumble every blue moon, but no team pulling this crap has ever come back to win the game. For me that has to be the litmus test when it comes to weighing the high potential for injury against trying something like submarining or jumping over the victory formation. It is absolutely not worth it just to be able to say you made some schmuck fumble. If there is no chance of winning then what in the hell are we doing here?
Photo credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
That's why I was so livid after seeing the replay and noticing that longtime Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder had actually called timeout just so he could have his players try to jump over the top of the UCLA victory formation at the end of the game. It's also understandable why UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. wasn't interested in talking to him after shaking his hand after the game. Not only did Snyder potentially put UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's NFL career in jeopardy with that bush league move, he also put his own players at risk as we saw one of KSU's players land awkwardly after trying to jump on top of Hundley. That fall could have caused who knows how much damage to his brain and/or neck. And for what?
Seriously, for friggin' what? To look "tough" in defeat? Because players are expendable in college football anyway? If not a single team has come back and won a game trying that crap, why in the hell would Snyder think, "This is it guys, we will get 'em this time!"
I don't care how big of a Kansas State homer you are, I don't give a damn how "old school" you think you are, that was purely a dick move and beneath a coach of Snyder's stature. Period.
I started for two years in the SEC and played seven years in the NFL and you don't accomplish that unless you are "tough," and I'm here to tell you I would be 100 percent supportive of making kneel-down plays the equivalent of a quarterback sliding where the offense isn't live so we don't keep having this kinda crap come up.