Loophole in 3-2-5e

FootballLast Saturday, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema exploited a loophole in rule 3-2-5e, the new rule designed to speed up college football games.

With 23 seconds left in the half, and Wisconsin holding a tenous lead against PSU, he ordered his kickoff team to go offsides twice in a row. Since the new rule requires the clock to start rolling at the kickoff, not the moment of possession, all 23 seconds were wasted during the attempted returns and penalties.

In other words, this tactic kept JoePa’s offense off of the field.

Here’s the video:

Since offsides is only a five-yard penalty, the kicking team could theoretically do this six times before reaching the five-yard-line, and perhaps even longer than that due to the “half the distance” rules. Bielema did it twice, and wound down almost 30 seconds. Doing it six times could waste almost 3 minutes. Theoretically, then, any team within a couple of minutes of the end of a half (or game) could keep the other offense off of the field.

I’m sure they’ll change the rule, but it won’t take effect until next season. It’ll be interesting to see if it catches on. Imagine a nightmare scenario where a team is leading by less than a score with a minute or two left in the game, and uses this to run down the clock.


  1. Wow! That’s awesome. I didn’t even realize that happened this last weekend. It’s a total bush league move though. I would hope that for the remainder of the year, even though it’s in the rules, that coaches do not encourage their guys to do that.

    I hope someone tries it against tOSU and gives TGJr. a few chances to run one back.

  2. I have to wonder if the risk/reward factor is great enough to try this more than once or twice. If something gets fouled up in the execution, it could be very costly for your team in the right/wrong situation.

  3. Can’t you just not accept the penalty once you realize what they are doing?

  4. Tim –

    Yes, the opposing team could decline the penalty, but they won’t (and shouldn’t, at least for a few kickoffs). Because the kickoff team has a five-ten yard head start, it ensures that the receiver gets tackled very quickly. Wisconsin was able to tackle the runner on the 10 yard line the first time.

    What the receiving team could do, however, is let the ball go & hope it rolls out of the back of the end zone, then decline the penalty & get the ball on the 20. But that’s awfully risky when the kickoff team has a head start on chasing it down.

  5. I don’t think the receiving team can refuse the penalty. It is like a false start on the offense so the play didn’t really happen.

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