Strange roughing the punter penalty after an errant snap helps Kentucky hang on to beat Missouri

Kentucky punter Colin Goodfellow’s quick thinking helped the Wildcats hold on to beat Missouri 21-17 on Saturday.

As Goodfellow lined up to punt the ball back to the Tigers with 2:25 to go and Kentucky clinging to a four-point lead, the snap sailed way over his head. Way, way over his head. But Goodfellow didn’t give up on the play and picked the ball up five yards from the goal line. As soon as he grabbed the ball, he kicked it away just before as Missouri’s Will Norris dove in for a crushing tackle.

The kick didn’t make it back to the line of scrimmage. But that ultimately didn’t matter. Since Goodfellow was able to kick the ball away before Norris hit him, Norris was flagged for roughing the punter and Kentucky kept the ball.

Here’s how the play unfolded. Goodfellow was, unfortunately, injured by Norris’ tackle and had to be carted off the field.

The penalty allowed Kentucky to keep the ball until there were less than 50 seconds left and forced Missouri to use its last timeout. The Tigers’ last-ditch drive in the final seconds went nowhere.

Why Norris was penalized

At first glance, Norris’ penalty for roughing the kicker didn’t seem to make sense. After all, he was simply trying to follow his instincts and tackle Goodfellow once the ball flew over his head. And had Norris tackled Goodfellow at the 5-yard-line, Missouri would have had first and goal with a chance to take the lead.

But Goodfellow was still protected by the roughing the punter rule because the ball flew directly over his head. According to the NCAA rule book, a punter “does not automatically lose his protection unless he carries or possesses the ball outside the tackle box.” Since Goodfellow immediately kicked the ball after picking it up and didn’t run toward either sideline, he was still in the tackle box at the time of his kick. And Norris was just a fraction late on the tackle.

It was another brutal loss for Missouri this season as the Tigers dropped to 4-5 and need to win two of its last three games to get to a bowl game. Mizzou lost earlier this season at Auburn when a short game-winning field goal sailed wide at the end of regulation and running back Nathaniel Peat dropped the ball just short of the goal line as he was running in for a game-winning TD in overtime.

The win, meanwhile, moves Kentucky to 6-3 ahead of a big matchup against No. 3 Georgia on the road in Week 11. Hopefully Goodfellow’s injury from his game-saving play isn’t too serious.

LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 24: A Kentucky Wildcats helmet is seen during the game against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Kroger Field on September 24, 2022 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Kentucky is 6-3 after beating Missouri 21-17. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) (Michael Hickey via Getty Images)