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A Basic Guide to Football for College Women

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – fall football in the South! You can’t beat it! Get ready because this season brings all the hype, thrill and excitement a football-obsessed college girl (like myself) could ever need. This handy-dandy football guide should prepare you so well that by the time your favorite SEC team plays on Saturday, you will practically be a pro at all football slang.

What is the purpose of football?

Obviously, it is to score points, win and get all the bragging rights in your athletic conference. Teams obtain points through touchdowns and field goals. After scoring a touchdown, a team can choose to go for a field goal to get one extra point or they can opt in for a two-point conversion, which is when they score an added touchdown from the two-yard line. It’s more common for teams to just kick a field goal, but if the clock is running and they need to get more points in a short amount of time, the two-point conversion is key. Teams can also go for a field goal at any distance from the endzone, which is an extra three points, if they do not think they will be able to make a first down while on their fourth down. That sounds like a lot, but I’ll break it down in a second.

Wait – what time is it?

Football games are broken up into four fifteen-minute quarters. Games may seem longer than this because, well, they are. It isn’t just halftime that makes the game seem so long. Teams are allowed to have three thirty-second timeouts per half in which the coaches can work out a new play or discuss a referee’s call. Of course, the teams do not need to use all three timeouts but can pick and choose however many they’d like. Additionally, the clock stops between each play and gives players time to get back to where they were on the field. This may make games sound dragged-out and exhausting, but once you understand the game, it becomes the best way to spend your Saturdays!

What do all the terms mean?

End Zone: The endzones are the ends of each field where the touchdowns are scored.

First Down: First off, a down is the period in which the ball is put into play and lasts until the play is completed. A down is simply a play and each offensive line is given four chances to move the ball 10 yards across the field. They can do this by running it or passing it to other players on the team. A first down is when a team moves the ball at least 10 yards from their starting point without getting tackled by defense. This is good for the offense because they can keep up the pace and move the ball down the field until they score a touchdown.

Interception: This occurs when the defense catches the ball and ends the offense’s possession. When it happens, it is usually the most crowd-engaging part of the game as the tables have turned with who has the ball.

Line of Scrimmage: This imaginary line is where the ball left off from the last play. Neither side can cross this line until the ball is in play.


We’ll start with the offensive players. The offense is the side that has the ball and moves it down the field to score points.

Full Back (FB): This position is similar to a running back just bigger and stronger. The full back is in charge of blocking the defense from catching up to the quarterback and is open for the quarterback to pass the ball to during a play.

Offensive Line: These five players help out the quarterback by blocking a tackle from the defense. They consist of the Left Tackle (LT), Left Guard (LG), Center (C), Right Guard (RG) and Right Tackle (RT). The center is the player that “snaps” the ball between their legs to the quarterback at the start of each play.

Quarterback (QB): We all know the quarterback — the leader of the pack. The quarterback directs the plays and initiates action. Whether this player is passing the ball to a receiver or running with it to the endzone, the quarterback is everyone’s go-to player.

Running Back (RB): This player takes handoffs from the quarterback during a rushing play. The running back is quick on his feet and is someone who runs with the ball to get more yards or even better – score a touchdown! This player runs, catches, blocks and everything in between.

Tight End (TE): The tight end is in charge of blocking the defense from the quarterback and running backs, but is also open when the quarterback needs to pass the ball.

Wide Receiver (WR): From strong hand-eye coordination to his incredibly quick speed, this player is everything! The wide receiver catches the ball the quarterback throws and runs close to the sidelines on the field in order to outrun the defense. There can be anywhere from two to four receivers on the field depending on which play is being initiated.


Next up is the defense; this side works with each other to block and tackle the other team in attempt to gain possession of the ball.

Cornerback (CB): This group of players tackles, breaks up passes and tries to intercept the ball whenever they can. There are usually between two to four cornerbacks on the field at a time.

Defensive Line: This group of players blocks the offensive lineman and tries to take down the those carrying the ball. They consist of two defensive ends (DE) and one to two defensive tackles (DT).

Linebacker (LB): This group of players backs the defensive line and handles shadowing running backs, tight ends and wide receivers.

Safety (S): There are two safety positions: strong safety (SS) and free safety (FS). They are in charge of shadowing offensive receivers. They are both always on the lookout to tackle the other team or break up a pass.

Special Teams

Kicker: This player does exactly what the name entails. The kicker comes to the rescue and kicks the ball to get an extra point after a touchdown and kicks field goals (three points) when the offense is not getting enough yardage.

Punter: This player kicks the ball across the field if the offense doesn’t get a first down. The punter also kicks the ball across the field after his team scores.


You may have heard the referee shout “flag on the play” at any given point in the game but don’t know what this exactly entails. It’s simple — the yellow flag indicates that there is a foul. Some common fouls include:

Encroachment: If a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage before the snap and touches an offensive player in the process, then the offense gets to move forward five yards which makes it easier to get a first down.

False Start: This occurs when an offensive player moves before the snap at the beginning of the play. As a result, the offense has to move back five yards which makes it more difficult to get yardage in the next play, obviously.

Fumble: A fumble occurs when a player drops the ball therefore losing possession. They may drop it while running, being tackled or just straight up standing up if they are just that clumsy.

Holding: This foul means exactly what it sounds like. It is when an offensive player holds back a defensive player so they can’t tackle. This results in a 10-yard penalty for the offense.

Offside: This occurs when a player is beyond the line of scrimmage before the play begins which results in a five-yard penalty.

Pass Interference: This foul is when a defensive player contacts an offensive player before the ball gets to them and prevents them from catching the ball. Instead of making contact before the ball comes, the defensive player can go for an interception or can make contact after the receiver has the ball. If this foul does occur, then the team gets a 15-yard penalty and the offense immediately gets a first down.

Personal Foul: This foul indicates any action that is intentionally trying to hurt another player. C’mon y’all – let’s not try to hurt each other! The team gets a 15-yard penalty in result.

OK, now you should be a football pro when it comes to knowing all the basics both on and off the field. What are you waiting for? Go out and show your college team some love and support! You just can’t beat fall football in the south.

Lauren Reho is a second-year public relations major and French minor at the University of Florida. She loves vintage fashion, travel, and Broadway, and has a passion for promoting inclusivity and diversity in the communications industry. One day, she hopes to work in her favorite destination, New York City, and live out her true Carrie Bradshaw dreams. You can get to know her more through her Instagram and Twitter @laurenreho
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