Texas Lutheran kicker Tyler Hopkins had no idea if kicking his blocked field goal through the uprights would count as three points. He just wanted Belhaven University to not get the ball.
Hopkins is the Division III kicker who made an incredible field goal that counted (at the time) off the bounce after his first kick was blocked.
“Once it got blocked, right when they blocked it, it hit my chest so I guess that made me look at the ball,” Hopkins told Yahoo Sports. “And once I saw the ball bouncing, it’s a live ball and I didn’t want them to return it or cause a change of momentum so I kicked it.”
To the apparent surprise of nearly everyone on the field, Hopkins’ second kick sailed through the uprights. And then he wondered what was going to happen next.
“I saw that it went in and I looked at my holder [Zach Galindo] and I was like ‘does that count?’” Hopkins said. “And everyone was just confused and we just waited on the refs’ decision.”
The officials were confused too. Heck, so were we when we saw that Hopkins’ incredible kick counted.
The NCAA rulebook in a situation like this is a little hard to decipher because there are entries that say a kick is a kick until it’s recovered or possessed (it wasn’t) and Hopkins’ kick never went beyond the neutral zone. But those entries in the rule book don’t matter; because he kicked a loose ball it should have been illegal touching according to Football Zebras.
A ball that is not in a player’s possession is a loose ball: in-flight forward passes, fumbles, kicks, and backward passes are all loose balls. So, the blocked field goal remains a kick, but it is also a loose ball. And under no circumstance may a player deliberately kick a loose ball. (A ball being dropped for a legal punt or dropkick is not considered loose if it is kicked as usual.) So, at this point there is a foul for an illegal kick. This being Division III, we are under NCAA rules, and the illegal kick is a 15-yard penalty and a loss of down. Assuming this is a fourth down, this would be a turnover on downs.
But we’re not here to spoil the fun. Even if Hopkins’ reaction to keep Belhaven away from the football should have resulted in a penalty, it was a great move because it didn’t and it gave his team three first-quarter points in a 37-0 victory.
And the incredible kick means Hopkins has been getting attention he never expected he would have. The game was just the second of the freshman’s career and he already made an appearance on SportsCenter. Not too many Division III kickers get to say that.
“The biggest thing was when it made ESPN and they were comparing my kick to Matt Prater’s which is a guy I’ve really looked up to,” Hopkins said of the Detroit Lions kicker’s bouncing field goal make Monday night. “Just to be able to have my name and his name in the same sentence was really exciting for me.”
– – – – – – –