TOUCHBACK

What is TOUCHBACK?

TOUCHBACK meaning ball that becomes dead in the end zone when it got there by force imparted to it by the team trying to score a touchdown or field goal in that end zone; results in the team defending that end zone getting possession on their 20-yard line; examples of touchbacks include kickoffs and scrimmage kicks that go into the end zone in high school and those that go into the end zone in college and pro football and are not returned out by the receiving team, interceptions in the end zone that are not run out of the end zone, recoveries of fumbles that bounce into the end zone and are not run out; even includes interceptions and fumble recoveries where the defender first got control of the ball outside the end zone but his momentum carried him into the end zone; if, however, a defender catches a ball in the end zone his team is defending after the ball went there from force imparted by the offensive team, then leaves the end zone of his own volition, then decides to retreat back into the end zone, the ball then becoming dead would be a safety, not a touchback, because now the force that put it there was imparted by the defender; fearful young players sometimes retreat into their own end zone after catching a kick erroneously thinking they will be taking a touchback only to learn that it is a safety; the word used by the NCAA rule book is “impetus;” if the impetus that put the ball in the end zone came from the team trying to get into that end zone, it is a touchback; if the impetus came from the team defending that end zone, it is a safety, see the rules book for your level for details

 

reference: John T. Reed: DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN FOOTBALL TERMS