I wanted to ask the more intelligent football minds a question about the controversial kick-catch interference call on Monday night.
I know that Brent and Kirk had an expert in the booth with them after that was called who stated that within the rules, it was a good call. The coverage player was definitely too close (i.e. within the proverbial halo) to allow for a definitive opportunity for Jones to field the ball. I will note that after watching it back, it does appear that a block in the back could have been called, but that block in the back might have actually prevented Jones from getting nailed (he got pushed to the side a bit).
However, after watching the game again last night, there was something else that happened that I haven't heard anyone discussing.........the 2nd coverage guy that came into the play after the bobble.
After Jones bobbled the ball, a 2nd ND defender came in and hit the ball and Jones. However, this happened BEFORE the ball hit the ground. I believe that is actually catch interference as well. And here's why.....
A few years ago, I was watching an NFL game (don't remember when or even who it was, just that it was NFL), and something very similar happened. Basically, the returner called for a fair catch (like Jones did Monday night) and bobbled the ball with the ball going forward (like Monday night). However, a coverage guy on the other team saw the bobble and nailed the returner. Catch interference was called and there was a dispute from the announcers. However, the official rule states that when a fair catch is called, the player has every opportunity to catch the ball BEFORE it hits the ground, even if he's going forward (although the ball would be placed back at the spot where the ball first touched the player). Therefore, it was the right call on the penalty. Basically, if a guy calls for the fair catch, and he bobbles the ball without it EVER touching the ground (even for 95 yards going forward), the coverage unit players cannot touch him or the football unless and until that ball hits the ground (even though the ball would be placed back at the initial contact between the football and the return man).
So my question is this. Is this the same rule that applies in college? It's a bit of an obscure rule and most people's initial reaction would justifiably be that if it's a bobble, then the ball (and the player) are fair game. However, this certainly wasn't the case in the NFL play I mentioned above.
If that's the case, then ND can complain all they wish (even though the only justifiable complaint would be the missed potential block in the back), but the 2nd guy that came in when Jones was bobbling the ball that made contact with the ball, and then Jones, should have been flagged for catch interference regardless of what happened with the initial gunner. Come to think of it, I don't remember which ND player number was called for the catch interference. I'll have to check that out tonight to see if it was the 1st guy (as everyone assumed) or the 2nd guy, against whom the penalty was actually pretty obvious if the rules on fair catches are the same as the NFL.
Anyone able to provide more insight? I realize this might not be as obscure as the 1-point safety we all heard about recently, but I just wanted clarification.