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Minnesota Gophers Football: Forward Progress Rule Examination and Ace Rogers Forced Fumble Against TCU

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Saturday content! Ok so maybe it's late Friday night content.

There's been a lot of debate on our site about Ace Rogers' tackle on TCU's Desmon White, during the Minnesota Golden Gophers loss to TCU.  I've been working hard to gather media for this article, and I haven't been terribly successful.  In the highlight video above, the play starts at the 12 second mark, which is convenient because you don't have to wait forever to get to it.

The best gif I could find came from scout.com's Ryan Burns.

There was also this tweet from Dan Owens at 247, which our very own dear leader GopherNation used for a fanshot.

Let's start with the facts.  White receives a Trevone Boykin pass on the left side of TCU's formation.  Rogers sheds a blocker and initiates contact with White at TCU's 40yard line.  He wraps-up White and drives him backwards, twisting White around his body.  Toward the end of the twist, White loses the ball before any part of his body, feet included, touches the ground.  White lands, sans ball, at the 36 yard line, and Rogers clearly recovers the ball.  Thus ends our discovery (I've learned so much from Deflategate!).

The rule in question is Rule 4: Ball In Play, Dead Ball, Out of Bounds. Section 1, Article 3 of this rule states [emphasis added]:

A live ball becomes dead and an official shall sound his whistle or declare it dead:

a) When it goes out of bounds other than a kick that scores a field goal after touching the uprights or crossbar; when a ball carrier is out of bounds; or when a ball carrier is so held that his forward progress is stopped.  When in question, the ball is dead.

b) When any part of the ball carrier's body, except his hand or foot, touches the ground or when the ball carrier is tackled or otherwise falls and loses possession of the ball as he contacts the ground with any part of his body, except his hand and foot (Exception: holders for field goals).

There is no listed interpretation of this rule in the book, so it's supposed to be enforced based on it's plain reading.  In our play, Rogers contacts White initially at the 40 yard line.  By the end of the tackle, White was tossed back to the 36.  Part A of the dead ball rule is clearly in play.  White definitely loses the ball before any part of his body contacts the ground, so part B of the rule is not in play.  However, White clearly possessed the ball until right before he hit the ground.  You can see Rogers in the process of ripping it out in the still shot above.

Part A makes no mention of how long the forward progress must be stopped, and makes no mention of how many defenders must be holding the ball carrier for the rule to apply, so the minimum is one.  Rogers drove White at least three yards, or almost ten feet, backwards before the ball came loose.  The referee properly called the play dead and marked the ball at the point of White's furthest progression down field at the 40.

This is a textbook interpretation of the rule by the referee.  They made plenty of terrible calls in this game, but this play was not one of them. This was not a fumble.

What do you think?  Am I an idiot?

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