Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Wonderful World Of One Point Safeties

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(Image courtesy of @bubbaprog)

Last Sunday, the New England Patriots tried something for possibly the first time in NFL history, a drop kick onside kick. It was out of necessity, as they were attempting a free kick after a safety and couldn't use a tee, but you know that noted football historian Bill Belichick was giddy at the possibility of breaking out such an obscure gem. After all, this is the man who sent out Doug Flutie in 2005 to attempt a drop kick extra point, the first such attempt since 1941.

A few days later, our own Chris George posited that it might be possible for a team to score a single point in a game if Doug Flutie intercepted a pass on a 2 point conversion and while running the other way, drop kicked the ball through the uprights. Stickler that I am, I noted that you can't return a 2 point conversion the other way in the NFL (which is dumb, it's always an exciting play). Dejected that I poked a hole in his otherwise likely scenario, we decided to look into other possible ways a team might score 1 point in a (American) football game. It turns out there are 2 ways to do it, both rather obscure:

1) A team dies in a plane crash on the way to the game. The other team wins by forefeit, 1-0. As much as I would love to see 1 point scored in a game, this wouldn't exactly be a fun result to root for.

2) A safety is scored during a conversion play, resulting in 1 point rather than the normal 2. This has happened a few times, most notably in 2004 during the Texas/Texas A&M game.

In all practicallity, scenario #2 would have to occur in the end zone nearest to the conversion try, thus the safety would be counted as 1 point for the trying team, and look just like a PAT. This is an interesting footnote, but doesn't allow the possiblity of a team finishing a game with 1 point. However, if we extend the practical to the theoretical, a team can finish with 1 point if the team attempting a try was sacked in its own end zone. That's right, they'd have to run backwards 97 yards and get tackled. Barring me becoming a football coach, this will never happen, but I was still curious if it could be simulated in a football video game. I asked a friend to try it in NCAA Football 06 and lo and behold:

At first, I was impressed that EA thought to put in such an obscure rule, but the game was developed right after that 2004 Texas/Texas A&M game that likely was the first exposure many people had to it. To see if developers were really on top of it, I tried out some older games, going all the way back to the mid 90s.

The first game I tried was Bill Walsh's College Football from 1994, which I believe was the first college football video game for consoles. After scoring a TD, I ran backwards 97 yards and got excited for a brief moment:

This moment was fleeting as it ended when I saw that they awarded the other team 2 points, a clear misreading of the rulebook. Bill Walsh is rolling over in his grave.

A bit dejected, I trudged on and tried USA College Football from 1996. Perhaps video game developers had wised up in those 2 years. To my chagrin, they had not, and after running backwards 97 yards on a 2 point conversion attempt, it just counted as a failed try. The other team was awarded no points, and may God have mercy on their soul.

At this point, I came to the conclusion that video game developers had no idea about this rule until 2004, understandably so. But I wanted to try one more game that I remember playing in my formative years, MobyGames' NCAA Football from 1994. This game was notable for its side to side scrolling and terrible AI. Every team, whether it was Air Force or Arkansas, had exactly the same skill level, and players were indistinguishable. Because of this, it was impossible to run backwards 97 yards without getting tackled. After a few failed attempts, I figured out a way to do it. Take 20 delay of games, and run it backwards into the end zone once I'm on my own 3 yard line. As proud as I was of this idea, the result was predictable, a failed try, and no points awarded to the other team.

Since it's difficult enough to score 1 point in video game football, it's doubtful it'll ever happen in real life American football. Weird football score enthusiasts such as myself will have to take satisfaction in scoreboard fails like the Temple/Ohio image above and the following bizarre box score that I screencapped a few years back (think outside the bun):

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But I do have a solution that'll allow us to see it more often. Back in 1948, the AAFC's (predecessor of the AFL) Brooklyn Dodgers played a pre-season game against the CFL's Montreal Alouettes in which the first half featured Canadian rules and the 2nd half featured American rules. The Dodgers beat the Alouettes by a score of 27-1. The 1 point was scored on a rouge, a fairly common way of scoring in Canadian football. I say we bring back these exhibition games between American and Canadian football teams. It would spice up the overly long and tired NFL pre-season, and also might create some interesting strategies. And when the Kansas City Chiefs finish the game with 1 point against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, it won't be because an ESPN guy in the truck pressed the wrong buttons.

After all, why should Canadians have all the bizarre scoring fun? They already get to set 18 guys in motion at a time.

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  1. I didn't know about that exhibition game, and I endorse your call for more of them. I say this whenever someone will listen: NFL athletes playing CFL rules would be the greatest sporting event in the history of the world.

  2. Seriously, I've only watched a small amount of CFL but I've always found it entertaining and completely bizarre

  3. Back in the late '70s (I think is was) there was an Orange Bowl game where Oklahoma beat Penn State by a significant margin. Later it was discovered that OU had played some ineligible players and was forced to forfeit those games and the bowl win, with the scores always being 1-0 against them. So that might count as a third way to achieve that score.

  4. I think that would fall under scenario #1. I used the plane crash as an over the top example but really it covers any scenario where a team has to forfeit.