Obscure 'invalid fair catch signal' rule wipes out Marshall touchdown (Video)

(via ESPN)

A head-scratching call took a touchdown off the board for Marshall early in the New Mexico Bowl against Colorado State.

After the Marshall defense forced a punt on CSU’s first offensive possession, the Thundering Herd’s Hyleck Martin was back deep to receive. Martin eluded a tackle, made a few men miss and was off to the races for an 83-yard touchdown.

(via ESPN)

However, Martin’s highlight reel return was called back because of an invalid fair catch signal.

(via ESPN)

As you can see above, Martin definitely waved his left arm, but the end zone angle kind of makes it look like he may have been trying to maintain his balance while cutting toward the football to make the catch.

(via ESPN)

A review of the NCAA rulebook shows the officials made the correct call. Martin’s fair catch signal was invalid.

A fair catch signal is deemed valid when a player “has obviously signaled his intention by extending one hand only clearly above his head and waving that hand from side to side of his body more than once.” Martin didn’t do that. He waved his arm only once, so the signal was invalid. That means he cannot advance the ball.

From the NCAA rulebook:

Punt receiver B22 gives an invalid fair catch signal by a brief flick of his upraised hand. He catches the ball at the B-35 and sprints to the B-40 where he is tackled. RULING: The ball is dead where caught. Foul for delay of game by B22; five-yard penalty from the dead-ball spot. No foul by the tackler, as clearly B22 gave the appearance of being a ball carrier. First and 10 for Team B at the B-30.

So instead of taking an early 7-0 lead, Marshall’s offense started at its own 17 and quickly punted back to the Rams. The game was scoreless after one quarter, but the Thundering Herd was able to hit a big play early in the second quarter. Marshall took a 7-0 lead when Chase Litton found Tyre Brady behind the defense for a 76-yard touchdown.

Marshall went on to win 31-28, so the invalid fair catch did not prove to be costly.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!