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On that play, Martinez did his best to clear Indiana’s line and block the kick. It was close, but officials ruled that he landed on someone —- a 15-yard (or half-the-distance) penalty and an automatic first down. It didn’t technically matter whether Martinez landed on a teammate or an opponent. Either constitutes leaping.
If the rule changes, it won’t matter whether defenders get clear of other players. Anybody who runs and tries to hurdle people will be guilty.
The rule’s still a little more complicated than that, though.
Players often run toward the line of scrimmage and try to jump over blockers to swat away a field goal, and it can be well within the rules. A play can’t be a leaping foul if the defender in question reaches the line of scrimmage before he jumps, or if an offensive player “initiates contact” against the player who jumps. And the leaping rule doesn’t apply to linemen who are stationary at the time of the snap.
Last season, Penn State’s Big Ten East-turning win over Ohio State happened because the Nittany Lions’
blocked a field goal with a totally legal leap:
Did Allen (No. 2 in blue) run toward the line of scrimmage and try to jump over blockers to deny a field goal? Yes. Did he land on someone? It’s possible, though it’s close. But the play was legal anyway because he reached the neutral zone before he jumped.
The NCAA has a similar leaping rule for punts, but it rarely comes up, and the NCAA’s announcement only indicated a change for field goals and extra points. The leaping rule also says players can’t “step, jump, or stand” on an opponent on any play. None of that seems likely to change.
The playing rules panel could make broader changes to the leaping rule, in theory. But if it only expands the definition of leaping by making it irrelevant how players land, there will still be legal ways to jump over people to block a kick.