Now all is ready for action. The snap back takes the ball and places it upon the ground; his captain calls a number of signals unintelligible to all except his men. by them they are fully understood, as telling just who will take the ball, in what direction he will run, what men will precede him, if any, and who will run with him and block off opposing men who would tackle him. In the perfection of the execution of these plays, or the successful attack and ruin of them by the opponents lies in the beauty and skill of foot ball. When the signals are fully given, the quarter back gives the snap back a signal and he “snaps” the ball back between his legs to the quarter, who receives it and passes it to the player who is to make the run, and in a moment he is off, guarded by his “interferers.”
Sometimes the “interference” is so good that the opposing tackles are prevented from bringing down the runner until he has gained many yards; at other times the opposing men are so vigorous and active that they are through upon the runner almost before he is able to start, and throw him to the ground oftimes with an actual loss. When the runner is downed, the ball is again given to the snap back and another “scrimmage” ensues, and so the game progresses in a series of “downs” for two halves of thirty-five minutes each, with ten minutes intermission.
If in any of the players the runner crosses the side line or the ball is kicked across it, it is said to be “in touch,” and is dead until again put in play, which is generally done by bringing it in upon the field a certain distance from the point where it went out and putting it in play from a regular scrimmage.
Frequently when a team has made two ineffective attempts to advance the ball five yards, and a third run promises no success, it is wiser to kick the ball as far down into the opponents’ territory as possible and let them secure possession of it there, than to attempt a run on the third down and be forced to give up the ball upon the spot to near their goal. Accordingly, a signal for a put is given, the quarter takes the ball and passes it to the full back, who sends it sailing down the field over the heads of the players. It is possible now for one of the opposing men to make what is called a “fair catch.” If he is in a position to catch the ball on the fly, he can by indicating his intention by holding up his hand beforehand secure a free kick. That is, his opponents can not come beyond the point where the ball was caught, while he and his fellow-players can retire any distance they choose and kick the ball just as in the opening play, without molestation.
As has been said, there are two other ways of scoring which remain to be explained – “a goal from the field” and “safety.” When either eleven has, by a series of downs, worked the ball up near to and in front of its opponents’ goal, sometimes the captains think a try at goal from the field would be wise. Accordingly, the signal is given, the linemen hold firmly and let no men through, and the ball is passed to the full back, who drops it and just as the moment it bounds from the ground he kicks it in an effort to send it between the goal posts. This is called a “drop kick,” and if successful counts five points. They are very hard to make and should be applauded loudly when successful.
A “safety” is made when a side, being in possession of the ball near its own goal line, finds itself unable to gain and liable to lose the ball to its opponents at that dangerous point from which they would be almost sure to score a touchdown and possibly a goal. The side thus hard pressed is allowed to carry the ball and touch it behind its own goal line. This counts two points for its opponents, but permits the losers to bring the ball out twenty-five yards and have a “free kick.”
Such, then, is a general outline of the game that holds the attention of so many thousands of people every year. There is no doubt of its merit, and the great possibilities for training and skill in play. It does, indeed, seem rough, but as the game is now played by carefully trained men the number of severe injuries is remarkably small. Base ball proves more fatal, and track and field sports contribute more permanent cripples to the world.
The long hair of the foot ballist has been the subject for much satire and humorous display. Nevertheless, it affords a great protection to the head and ears of those who fall and mix in the mountains of entangled bodies, arms and legs upon the gridiron.
The year 1894 promises an increased popularity for the great college game and Memphis is prepared to furnish her share of the sport.
By Jacob on August 17, 2009