In gridiron football, a spike of the ball is a play in which the quarterback intentionally throws the ball at the ground immediately after the snap. A spike is technically an incomplete pass, and therefore, it has the effect of stopping the clock and exhausting a down.
Running a spike play presumes there will be at least one play by the same team immediately afterward, so it would not be done on 4th down or when it would run the clock out (the clock is probably running when the teams are lining up for the play). If either of those situations occurs, a quarterback whose first choice is to spike the ball would have to run a regular play instead. There is at least one case of a quarterback in the NFL doing just that, although that quarterback's regular play failed.
In the January 1998 Rose Bowl, Ryan Leaf spiked the ball and inadvertently ran the clock out on that play. Fourteen years later in the 2012 Rose Bowl, Russell Wilson also ran the clock out on a spike ball play. In both cases, just before such spike, the clock was stopped with just 2 seconds left (while the sideline chains were being moved for 1st down, the usual procedure when playing under college football rules).
Spiking after scoring
After scoring a touchdown, players often celebrate by spiking the football, though this action is not legal in NCAA football, as the scoring player is immediately obligated to either leave the ball or return the ball to an official. Spiking the ball remains legal in the NFL, where it is not interpreted as excessive celebration unless the ball is spiked towards another player on the opposing team. The maneuver is attributed to Homer Jones of the New York Giants in 1965.
Such action is not considered a "spike play." It has no official status.
- 2008 NCAA FOOTBALL RULES AND INTERPRETATIONS, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Page 112, Accessed August 4, 2008.
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