The NCAA is stopping the fake slide that Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett used to score a touchdown in the ACC championship game Saturday.
According to a memo from NCAA national coordinator of officials Steve Shaw, referees should interpret a fake slide as a player surrendering himself and should end the play.
“Any time a ball carrier begins, simulates, or fakes a feet-first slide, the ball should be declared dead by the on field officials at that point,” the memo states. “The intent of the rule is player safety, and the objective is to give a ball carrier an option to end the play by sliding feet first and to avoid contact. To allow the ball carrier to fake a slide would compromise the defense that is being instructed to let up when the ball carrier slides feet first.”
The memo states that such a play is not reviewable.
Pickett used a fake slide to freeze defenders and run for a 58-yard touchdown on the first possession of Pitt’s 45-21 ACC title win over Wake Forest.
After Pickett broke containment on a third-down run, he briefly stutter-stepped and pretended to slide after picking up the first down. Two Wake Forest defenders froze, figuring Pickett was giving himself up. Instead, Pickett made a quick cut and raced another 40 yards for a touchdown before blowing kisses to the crowd in the end zone.
Pickett, the ACC Player of the Year, said after the game that the move was intentional but unplanned.
“I just kind of started slowing down and pulling up and getting ready to slide, and I just kind of saw their body language and they just pulled up as well,” Pickett said. “… I have never done that before. I just kind of kept going after I initially started to slide.”
Shaw wrote in an email to The Associated Press that a rule change was not needed and a new rule was not implemented. The change is a new interpretation of the existing rules regarding when to call a play dead.
“I know people think the rule book covers every imaginable scenario, but it does not,” Shaw wrote. “In a season I will typically have one, two or maybe three of what we call play interpretations.”
“It just usually doesn’t happen this publicly,” Shaw added.
Shaw said conference coordinators of officials and all officials were notified of the new interpretation and told to inform teams playing in bowl games.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson had questioned the rule after Saturday’s loss, saying the NCAA needed to review whether such a play is legal.
“If that is the rule, I will just have my guy fake knee all the way down the field, and really, what do you do?” Clawson said. “So it’s something the NCAA is going to have to look at and, you know, you can’t fake a slide.”