October 22, 2019, by Charlotte Gauja

The Headliner | Dummies Guide to American Football

With The Headliner event just around the corner, we thought it’d be best that you understand the basic rules of American Football before attending the event!

The Basics

American Football is played on a 100-yard field with two 10-yard end zones at either end of the playing field. The field itself is very similar to that of a rugby pitch except that an American football field has markings to signify the yard markings.

Like most sports, the aim of American Football is to score more points than the opposing team, generally by the team on the offense getting the ball to their opponent’s ‘end zone.

The team on the offence has 4 downs to move the ball 10 yards forward. This means they have 4 attempts to move the ball forward by 10 yards before the play turns to the opposing team. However, if the team on offence moves the ball for more than the required 10-yards they then continue playing from the place they were stopped. Upon the 4th down the team has two options: attempt a field goal to score 3 points or a punt which kicks the ball downfield for the other team to recover and start from that point.

The 60-minute game is divided into 4 quarters of 15-minutes each. BUCs American Football rules are different to that of the National Football League (NFL). BUCs has four 12minute quarters.

Each team is allowed 11 players on the pitch at any one time. 11 for offence, 11 for defence

The Scoring

This can be done in a number of ways;

  1. Touchdown = 6 points

Scored when the attacking team has possession of the ball in the opposition’s ‘end zone’

  1. Point after touchdown (PAT) = 1 point

Earnt after a touchdown if the ball is kicked successfully through the uprights/goalpost

  1. Two-point PAT = 2 points

Instead of kicking a PAT you can throw or run the ball into the opposing team end zone for 2 points

  1. Field goal = 3 points

Scored when the ball is successfully kicked through the uprights during open play

  1. Safety = 2 points

Scored by the defence when they tackle an offensive player in possession of the football in their OWN end zone

The Positions: Offense

  • The Quarterback – runs the offense, calls the plays in huddles, responsible for passing the ball to running back or wide receiver
  • The offensive line consists of the Centre, 2 Guards and 2 Tackles
  • The Centre – Snaps the ball to the Quarterback before the play & then either protects the quarterback so he can throw the ball or creates a gap for the running back to run through
  • Two Guards – protects the quarterback so he can throw the ball downfield or creates gaps for the running backs to run through
  • Two Tackles – protects the quarterback so he can throw the ball downfield or creates gaps for the running backs to run through
  • Wide Receivers – runs downfield to catch the ball
  • The Running Back – main job is to take the ball from the quarterback and run through the holes the offensive line creates
  • The Fullback – main job is to block for the running back as he runs downfield
  • The Tight-End – Main job for a tight end is to block for the running back and run downfield and catch the ball

The Positions: Defence

  • Line-backer – The main run stoppers behind the defensive line but can also be used in pass coverage stopping opposing players from catching the ball
  • Cornerbacks – Prevent the wide receivers from catching a pass
  • Safeties – prevent the wide receivers from catching a pass and used as a last line of defence if all else has failed
  • Nose/Defensive Tackle – Playing in the middle of the defensive line, they are a key force to stop the run and rush the Quarterback
  • Defensive Ends – Main job is to contain the running back & rush the quarterback to prevent the ball being passed


There are 5 main ways to foul in a game of American Football;

  1. Dead Ball Foul – occurs between when a play is whistled dead until the ball is snapped for the next play
  2. Encroachment – when a defensive player enters the ‘neutral zone’ and contacts an offensive player prior to the snap
  3. Live Ball Foul – occurs after the ball is snapped until the play whistle is dead
  4. Offside – a player is offside when any part of his body is in the ‘neutral zone’ or beyond the free kick line before the ball is put in play
  5. Unsportsmanlike Conduct – any non-contact act not in-line with the principles of sportsmanship

There are many different rules all relating to different branches of the 5 ways explained above, if we were to get into all the rules of American football this would be a very long blog. Don’t fear though the on-day announcer will explain all fouls so there is no confusion!


  • Snap – the action that starts the play when the centre passes the ball through his legs back to the quarterback
  • Half time – 12-minute interval between the second and third quarters
  • Catch – occurs when a forward pass is completed by the offense or intercepted by the defence.
  • Offense – the team in possession of the ball and trying to score
  • Defence – the team trying to prevent the opposition from scoring
  • Fumble – a turnover that occurs when a player drops the football during play – it is then open to either team to recover
  • Neutral zone – an area bounded by the forward and back points of the football once it has been made ready for play. Neither team may cross this zone until the ball has been snapped for play
  • End zone – the scoring areas at each end of the playing field, bounded by the goal lines, end lines and side lines


FUN FACT: The first American Football match was played on November 6th 1869 based on the rules of soccer at the time. The game consisted of 25 players per side using a round ball that could not be picked up or carried. It could however be kicked or battled with the feet, hands, head or sides!


Hopefully this has given you enough information to competently watch the Headliner on Sunday 3rd November, kick off 1pm.

Register for your tickets here: https://bit.ly/2pfpzn3

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