Lateral pass

In American football and Canadian football, a lateral pass or lateral (officially backward pass in American football and onside pass in Canadian football) occurs when the ball carrier throws the football to a teammate in a direction parallel to or away from the opponents' goal line. A lateral pass is distinguished from a forward pass, in which the ball is thrown forward, towards the opposition's end zone. In a lateral pass the ball is not advanced, but unlike a forward pass a lateral may be attempted from anywhere on the field by any player to any player at any time.

While the forward pass is an invention of the North American games, the lateral and backward pass is also a part of rugby union and rugby league, where such passes are the norm. Compared to its use in rugby, laterals and backward passes are less common in North American football, due to a much greater focus on ball control in American football strategy; they are most commonly used by the quarterback, after taking the snap, to quickly transfer ("pitch") the ball a short distance to a nearby running back (or, rarely, wide receiver) on a rushing play. Laterals are also often seen as part of a last-minute desperation strategy or as part of a trick play. Examples of plays utilizing the lateral pass are the toss, flea flicker, hook and lateral, and buck-lateral.

US Navy 031108-N-9593R-011 Navy quarterback Craig Candeto pitches the ball out
A lateral during an option play.


While a forward pass may only be thrown once per down by the team on offense from within or behind the neutral zone, there are no restrictions on the use of lateral passes; any player legally carrying the ball may throw a lateral pass from any position on the field at any time, any player may receive such a pass, and any number of lateral passes may be thrown on a single play.[1] Additionally, a player receiving a lateral pass may throw a forward pass if he is still behind the neutral zone, subject to the forward pass rules.[2] A lateral is the only type of pass that can be legally thrown following a change of possession during a play.

Pitch to Jeremy Ross at ASU at Cal 10-4-08
A pitch to a receiver

Unlike a forward pass, if a backward pass hits the ground or an official, play continues and, as with a fumble, a backward pass that has hit the ground may be recovered and advanced by either team.[1] Backward passes can also be intercepted. A lateral may be underhand or overhand as long as the ball is not advanced in the pass.

A ball that is passed exactly sideways is considered a backwards pass. If it hits the ground, the person throwing or "pitching" the lateral pass will be subjected to the fumble designation in the statistics in the NFL, even if the ball is dropped or muffed by a teammate, although in college football this can be credited to whichever player the statistician feels is most responsible.[3][4] If the ball hits the ground after travelling even slightly forward, however, it is then incomplete instead of a fumble.

The snap is legally considered to be a backward pass,[5] although a blown snap is not scored as a fumble.

Alternate uses

The oxymoron "forward lateral" is used to describe an attempted "lateral" (backward pass) that actually goes forward. In most cases, it is illegal.

A variant, the hook and lateral, where a forward pass is immediately passed backward to a second receiver to fool the defense, is used on occasion.

Famous plays in history

The lateral pass rule, or rather the lack of restrictions contained therein, has given rise to some of the most memorable and incredible plays in football history. Both collegiate and NFL football have certain examples of football lore which involve laterals.

One famous college play involving the backward passes is simply known as The Play. In the 1982 Big Game between Stanford and California, with four seconds left and trailing by one point, Cal ran the ball back on a kickoff all the way for the game-winning touchdown using five backward passes, eventually running through the Stanford Band, who had already taken the field (believing the game was over after Stanford players appeared to have tackled a Cal ball-carrier). The game remains controversial because of Stanford's contention that the Cal player's knee was down before he passed the ball during the third lateral and that the fifth lateral was an illegal forward pass.

A well-known and controversial NFL lateral pass occurred during the Music City Miracle play at the end of the 2000 playoff game between the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills. The play was a true lateral (the ball did not move forward or backward in the pass), but the receiver was a step ahead of the passer and reached back to catch the ball, so it gave the appearance of an illegal forward pass.

Another well known backward pass in the NFL was the River City Relay in a game between the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 21, 2003. With time running out, the Saints threw backward passes and brought the ball down the length of the field for a touchdown. However, kicker John Carney missed the extra point, which would have tied the game, so the Saints lost by one point, 20–19.

Another well known play was executed in a college football game by Presbyterian against Wake Forest in 2010. In this trick play, three lateral pass rules were used in combination. First the quarterback passed the ball sideways while intentionally bouncing the ball on the ground (a so-called "fake fumble pass"). The pass-receiver faked the end of the play, suggesting that it was an incomplete pass, but then passed the ball forward to a wide-receiver, who successfully ran for a touchdown.[6] Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe described the play "as well executed as anything I’ve ever seen".[7]

In a Division III college football game on October 27, 2007, Trinity University was trailing by two points with two seconds left in a game against conference rival Millsaps College. Starting from their own 39-yard line, Trinity called a play for a short pass across the middle. The receiver pitched the ball backward, with a sequence of additional backward passes as players were in danger of being tackled. The "Mississippi Miracle" ultimately included 15 backward passes as it covered 61 yards for the winning touchdown.[8]

On October 31, 2015, the Miami Hurricanes threw eight lateral passes over the course of 45 seconds to score a touchdown and upset the 22nd-ranked Duke Blue Devils 30-27. The play stirred controversy amid a number of missed calls by the Atlantic Coast Conference officiating crew.

On December 9, 2018, the Miami Dolphins pulled off the only game-winning touchdown to involve multiple lateral passes in NFL history, completing two laterals for a 69-yard touchdown to beat the New England Patriots 34-33[9].


  1. ^ a b NFL Rules Digest: Backward Pass,
  2. ^ NFL Rules Digest: Forward Pass,
  3. ^ NFL Rules Digest: Backward Pass
  4. ^ NCAA Football Statisticians Manual
  5. ^ Pelissero, Tom (August 17, 2014). "Cardinals RB Zach Bauman scores most bizarre TD of early NFL preseason". USA Today. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  6. ^ BitterlyCheerful (3 September 2010). "Presbyterian Trick Play vs. Wake Forest". Retrieved 23 April 2018 – via YouTube.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Briggs, Jerry (October 27, 2007). "Football: Trinity wins on miracle play". San Antonio Express News. Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-28.
  9. ^ "Miracle in Miami: The Miami Dolphins beat the New England Patriots with a 'miracle' play - BBC Sport". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
1910 Arkansas Razorbacks football team

The 1910 Arkansas Razorbacks football team represented the University of Arkansas during the 1910 college football season. In their third year under head coach Hugo Bezdek, the Razorbacks compiled a 7–1 record, shut out five of eight opponents, and outscored all opponents by a combined total of 221 to 19.The 1910 seasons was the first in which the Arkansas football team was nicknamed "Razorbacks" instead of Cardinals. According to team lore, the change was inspired when coach Bezdek congratulated his undefeated 1909 team by saying they "fought like a band of wild razorback hogs". However, the razorback was gaining fame by 1906 as an indigenous Arkansan hog "that has no fear or reason", and there are published accounts of the nickname being in use for the football team well prior to the 1910 season. Also, in March 1910, the Arkansas Land Congress adopted a resolution to advertise the State of Arkansas by sending one of the state's razor back hogs on a cross-country publicity tour to refute the saying that "even hogs cannot be raised in Arkansas." One source suggests the nickname dates to 1905.On October 22, 1910, Texas Southwestern scored to lead 12–8 with less than two minutes to play. On the ensuing kickoff return, Steve Creekmore threw a lateral pass all the way across field to Russell May who went down the sideline 75 yards for a touchdown and the 13–12 victory. Touchdowns were worth five points in 1910.

1930 Michigan State Normal Hurons football team

The 1930 Michigan State Normal Hurons football team represented Michigan State Normal College (later renamed Eastern Michigan University) during the 1930 college football season. In their ninth season under head coach Elton Rynearson, the Hurons compiled a record of 6–1 and outscored their opponents by a combined total of 145 to 14. Paul D. Shoemaker was the team captain. The team played its home games at Normal Field on the school's campus in Ypsilanti, Michigan.The Hurons lost their opening game, 7-0, to Michigan, a team that finished the season with an undefeated record and as champion of the Big Ten Conference. According to a United Press account of the game, the Hurons "outplayed the Wolves in two quarters, held them even in another, and broke just long enough in the third period to allow Michigan to flash through two forward passes and a lateral pass for a touchdown."After losing to Michigan, the Hurons won their remaining six games, including five consecutive shutouts to end the season.

1935 Sugar Bowl

The 1935 Sugar Bowl was the first Sugar Bowl game. Tulane (9–1) hosted unbeaten Temple (7–0–2) before a crowd of 22,206 in New Orleans. Temple took a 14–0 lead before Tulane came back to win the game, 20–14. The game was played at Tulane's home field, so it was technically a home game for the Green Wave. Temple had been ranked 15th in a November 15, 1934, AP football poll.The Mid-Winter Sports Association of New Orleans was formed in 1934 to formulate plans for an annual New Year’s Day football classic. On December 2, 1934, the Association’s executive board selected Tulane and unbeaten Temple to play in the first game. Columbia and Colgate were also considered by the Association to represent the east.The most notable play of the game came in the second quarter when Tulane's quarterback John McDaniel caught a Temple kickoff, ran to the right to draw tacklers, then threw a lateral pass to his teammate Monk Simons who ran 75 yards for the touchdown. Two more Tulane touchdowns in the second half outweighed Temple's early lead.

2014 Bahamas Bowl

The 2014 Bahamas Bowl was a post-season American college football bowl game that was played December 24, 2014 at Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau in the Bahamas. The first edition of the Bahamas Bowl featured the Central Michigan Chippewas of the Mid-American Conference against the WKU Hilltoppers of Conference USA. It began at 12:00 p.m. EST and aired on ESPN. It was one of the 2014–15 bowl games that concluded the 2014 FBS football season. Sponsored by the Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen fried chicken restaurant chain, the game was officially known as the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.

Western Kentucky beat Central Michigan, 49–48.

By the middle of the third quarter, the Chippewas had fallen behind the Hilltoppers by a score of 49–14, but they scored four unanswered touchdowns and so near the end of the fourth quarter were down by only seven points.

With one second remaining on the clock, Central Michigan had the ball on their own 25 yard line. The would be final play started with a 45-yard Hail Mary pass from QB Cooper Rush which was caught by receiver Jesse Kroll. As Kroll was being tackled he lateraled the ball teammate Deon Butler, who darted 20 yards before lateraling to Courtney Williams. With no room to run, Williams executed a quick third lateral pass to star receiver Titus Davis who ran the final 13 yards and dove towards the pylon, scoring a touchdown that would have tied the game with a kicked extra point and sent the game into overtime, but instead Central Michigan attempted a two-point conversion for the win, which was unsuccessful. Had the try succeeded, it would have marked the largest comeback in bowl history and tied the largest comeback in any FBS game. The play was nominated for an ESPY Award.

Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush threw seven touchdown passes, setting a new NCAA bowl game record.This was the first postseason bowl game to be played outside the United States since the 2010 International Bowl at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada.

Frank Wycheck

Frank John Wycheck (born October 14, 1971) is a former American football tight end and current sports talk radio host. He played college football at the University of Maryland. As a professional, Wycheck played 11 seasons for the Washington Redskins and the Tennessee Titans, where he threw the lateral pass in the Music City Miracle. He has also spent time as a professional wrestler. In 2005, Wycheck became color commentator on the Tennessee Titans radio network, and in 2004, Wycheck began co-hosting a morning sports radio show on Nashville radio station WGFX.


A fumble in American and Canadian football occurs when a player who has possession and control of the ball loses it before being downed (tackled), scoring, or going out of bounds. By rule, it is any act other than passing, kicking, punting, or successful handing that results in loss of player possession. A fumble may be forced by a defensive player who either grabs or punches the ball or butts the ball with his helmet (a move called "tackling the ball"). A fumbled ball may be recovered and advanced by either team (except, in American football, after the two-minute warning in either half or 4th down, when the fumbling player is the only offensive player allowed to advance the ball, otherwise the ball is ruled dead at the spot of recovery if the ball bounces backwards or spotted at the point of the fumble if the ball travels forward). It is one of three events that can cause a turnover (the other two being an interception or on downs, though the latter does not count toward the team's total turnovers), where possession of the ball can change during play.

Under American rules a fumble may be confused with a muff. A muff occurs where a player drops a ball that he does not have possession of, such as while attempting to catch a lateral pass or improperly fielding a kicking play such as a punt (you cannot "fumble" a loose ball). Ball security is the ability of a player to maintain control over the football during play and thus avoid a fumble. Thus, losing possession of the ball via a fumble includes not only dropping the ball before being downed; but, also having a ball taken away, or “stripped” from the runner’s possession before being downed.

Hook and ladder (football)

The hook and ladder, or hook and lateral, is a trick play in American, Canadian football & indoor American football. It starts with the hook, which is where a wide receiver runs a predetermined distance, usually 10 yards down the field, and along the sideline, and "hooks in" towards the center of the field to receive a forward pass from the quarterback. Another offensive player (usually another wide receiver) times a run so that he is at full speed, just behind the player with the ball at the time of the catch. As the defenders close in on the stationary ball carrier, he laterals or hands the ball to the teammate running at full speed in the opposite direction of the original receiver.If unanticipated, this play puts defenders out of position, running in the wrong direction. If the second receiver catches the lateral in stride, he can be long gone before defenders can react. However, the offense runs a high risk of turning the ball over if it is not handled properly because, unlike a forward pass, a dropped lateral pass results in a live ball.

Joe Fishback

Joe Fishback (born November 29, 1967 in Knoxville, Tennessee) is a former American football safety in the National Football League for the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, and Dallas Cowboys. He played college football at Carson-Newman University.

Joseph Pipal

Joseph Amos Pipal (January 18, 1874 – August 10, 1955) was an American football, basketball, and track and field coach. He served as the head football coach at Doane College (1902), Dickinson College (1907), the University of South Dakota (1910), Occidental College (1911–1915, 1921–1923), and Oregon Agricultural College—now known as Oregon State University—(1916–1917), compiling a career college football record of 50–35–3. Pipal was credited with devising lateral pass and mud cleats for football shoes and in 1934 wrote a book titled The lateral pass technique and strategy.Born in Zachotín, Austria-Hungary, Pipal attended Beloit College, the University of Chicago, and Yale University.

He died on August 10, 1955 of a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles, California.


Lateral is a geometric term of location which may refer to:

Lateral (academic journal), journal of the Cultural Studies Association

Lateral cricoarytenoid muscle

Lateral (anatomy), an anatomical direction

Lateral canal, a canal built beside another stream

Lateral consonant, an l-like consonant in which air flows along the sides of the tongue

Lateral hiring, recruiting that targets employees of another organization

Lateral mark, a sea mark used in maritime pilotage to indicate the edge of a channel

Lateral pass, a type of pass in American and Canadian football

Lateral release, a surgical procedure on the side of a kneecap

Lateral release (phonetics), the release of a plosive consonant into a lateral consonant

Lateral stability of aircraft during flight

Lateral support (disambiguation), various meanings

Lateral thinking, the solution of problems through an indirect and creative approach

Miracle in Miami

The Miami Miracle, also known as the Miracle in Miami, was an American football play that took place at the end of a game on December 9, 2018, between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. Down 33–28 with 7 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins completed a 17-yard pass and two lateral passes resulting in a 69-yard touchdown by running back Kenyan Drake. It is the first walk-off game-winning touchdown in NFL history to involve multiple lateral passes, and the first multi-lateral touchdown since the River City Relay in December 2003. After the game, the play was known by several names, most commonly the "Miami Miracle" and the "Miracle in Miami". The play went on to win the Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year Award at the 8th Annual NFL Honors Award Show on February 2.

Music City Miracle

The Music City Miracle is an American football play that took place on January 8, 2000 during the National Football League (NFL)'s 1999–2000 playoffs. It occurred at the end of the Wild-Card playoff game between the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills at Adelphia Coliseum, now known as Nissan Stadium, in Nashville, Tennessee. After the Bills had taken a 16–15 lead on a field goal with 16 seconds remaining in the game, Titans tight end Frank Wycheck threw a lateral pass across the field to Kevin Dyson on the ensuing kickoff return, and Dyson then ran 75 yards to score the winning touchdown and earn a 22–16 victory.

Phil Luckett

Phil Luckett is a retired official in the National Football League (NFL), having served from 1991 to 2005, and again in 2007. His officiating uniform number was 59. He entered the NFL as a field judge in 1991 and officiated Super Bowl XXXI, his last game at that position before he became a referee in 1997 after Red Cashion and Howard Roe announced their retirements. He also refereed in the WLAF/NFL Europe, including being assigned World Bowl '97. He returned to the NFL back judge position in 2001, three years after the NFL switched the titles of back judge and field judge. He took a leave of absence from the NFL for the 2006 season. In 2007, he returned to officiating as the back judge on Bill Carollo's crew and retired at the end of the season. After retiring, he was employed by the league as an officiating supervisor.

During an overtime coin toss in a November 1998 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions the coin landed on tails and Luckett awarded the toss to the Lions. Steelers captain Jerome Bettis said he had called "tails", but Luckett insisted that Bettis had called "heads-tails". According to NFL rules, a team's first call is the one the referee will use, and Luckett noted in his game report to the NFL that Bettis was attempting to deceive. The Lions scored a field goal on their first possession of the overtime to win the game. The game tape was later enhanced, and Bettis is clearly heard saying "hea-tails." A sideline microphone enhancement also clearly had Bettis telling Coach Bill Cowher that (Bettis) had said "hea-tails."Following this incident, the coin toss rules were changed. Now, instead of calling the toss while the coin is in the air, the team captain chooses heads or tails before the coin is flipped and the referee confirms the selection before he flips the coin.

The following week Luckett and his crew were assigned to Giants Stadium for the game between the New York Jets and the Seattle Seahawks, a game with playoff implications for both teams. Late in the game, with his team trailing, Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde attempted a quarterback sneak near the Seahawks' goal line and Luckett's head linesman Earnie Frantz signaled that he had scored the go-ahead touchdown. Various television replays showed Testaverde was clearly down by contact on the play and never crossed the goal line. Luckett, however, did not reverse the call and the play stood as the winning score in New York's 32-31 victory. At the time, the NFL did not use instant replay to review officials' decisions and the call would be cited as a major reason why the NFL reinstituted instant replay the following season.He was also the referee when the Music City Miracle play occurred during the 1999 Playoffs between the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans. Despite protests, Luckett ruled that a legal lateral pass had been thrown for the game-winning touchdown, a controversial call that was much disputed, even years later.Luckett was the league supervisor assigned to the 2012 Green Bay Packers–Seattle Seahawks game that contributed to the end of the 2012 NFL referee lockout.

Reception (gridiron football)

In American football and Canadian football, a reception, also known informally as a catch, is part of a play in which a forward pass from behind the line of scrimmage is received (caught) by a player in bounds, who, after the catch, proceeds to either score a touchdown or be downed. Yards gained from the receiving play are credited to the receiver as receiving yards. If such a pass is not caught by the receiver, it is called an incomplete pass or simply an incompletion.

A reception should not be confused with a lateral, also known as a lateral pass or backward pass, which occurs when the ball is thrown backwards or sideways to a teammate (that is, no part of the pass trajectory is toward the opponent's goal line).

Rush (gridiron football)

Rushing is an action taken by the offense that means to advance the ball by running with it, as opposed to passing, or kicking.Any rushing player is called a rusher.

Trick play

A trick play, also known as a gadget play, gimmick play or simply trickeration, is a play in American football that uses deception and unorthodox tactics to fool the opposing team. A trick play is often risky, offering the potential for a large gain or a touchdown if it is successful, but with the chance of a significant loss of yards or a turnover if not. Trick plays are rarely used not only because of the riskiness, but to also maintain the element of surprise for when they are used.

Trick plays take advantage of the fact that nearly all American football plays are either a pass from the quarterback or a run by the halfback. As a result, defenses will think pass when the quarterback has the ball and run when the running back has it. They respond by quickly changing position in an attempt to impede further progress of the offense's players. Trick plays depart from these expectations, attempting to have the defense move into position to defend the wrong play. They tend only to work when they are completely unanticipated by the opponent.

Trisha Brown

Trisha Brown (November 25, 1936 – March 18, 2017) was an American choreographer and dancer, and one of the founders of the Judson Dance Theater and the postmodern dance movement.

Vince Mazza

Vincent L. Mazza (March 25, 1925 – December 5, 1993) was an all-star Canadian football player. He was a two-way player, playing offensive and defensive line, and sometimes tight end.

Mazza did not attend college, but went directly to the pro leagues from Trott Vocational High School. He played for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL) for six games in 1945 and 1946. He moved to the up-start All-America Football Conference (AAFC) in 1947, with the Buffalo Bills. He played three years (1947 to 1949) there, mostly as a lineman, catching two passes and making one interception, and returning a lateral pass for a touchdown. He played in their 1948 championship loss to the Cleveland Browns.

He was recruited by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union, and played five seasons with them (1950 to 1954). He was an all-star as an end from 1950 to 1952, was a double all-star in 1953 (both offense and defense) and was an offensive line all-star in 1954. He won both the Grey Cup and the Jeff Russel Memorial Trophy as best player in the East in 1952.

Vince settled in Winona, Ontario, and continued in the game as the color man for CHML radio for the Tiger-Cat games. He was often seen at the Winona High School football practices helping to develop young athletes.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.