Several fouls are predicated on the hypothesis that a legal forward pass is or was in progress. As a result, several actions that are fouls when there has been a legal forward pass are not fouls when the pass is illegal.
A forward pass attempted from beyond the neutral zone is illegal. In NFHS rules, that is interpreted as the passer having one or both feet beyond the neutral zone, as seen in the PlayPic. In NCAA rules, such a pass would be illegal only if the passer’s entire body is beyond the neutral zone.
Any forward pass thrown after a change of possession, or a second or subsequent forward pass attempted by team A during a down, is an illegal forward pass.
Intentional grounding in NFHS includes passes intentionally thrown into an area not occupied by an eligible receiver and passes intentionally thrown incomplete to avoid loss of yardage or to conserve time. There is an exception which allows the passer to “spike” the ball immediately after receiving a hand-to-hand snap.
NCAA allows the “spiking” of a pass to conserve time if the spike immediately follows a shotgun snap. Also, if the passer is or has been outside the tackle box, he may ground the ball if it crosses or lands beyond the neutral zone extended.
Finally, for NCAA rules only, a forward pass thrown from behind the neutral zone after a runner has carried the ball beyond the neutral zone is also illegal.
All of those fouls mitigate the effects of other potential fouls. For example, a back judge may throw a flag for defensive pass interference. On the same play, an official may have judged that the passer was beyond the neutral zone. Interference only applies to legal forward passes. So instead of offsetting fouls, only the penalty for the illegal forward pass is enforced.
Similarly, an ineligible receiver may be illegally downfield before a pass was in flight, but the referee may ultimately rule that the pass was intentionally grounded. Again, the flag for the ineligible is waved off since eligibility only applies to legal forward passes.
Another foul that becomes immaterial because an illegal forward pass is involved is illegal touching. So instead of multiple fouls, the only foul deemed to have occurred is the illegal forward pass.
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