It was a critical play in the game, and even in a game decided by two points, it was more important than most.
But there were the Bison, on the porch with a chance to finish off Marist in Saturday night's season opener, when their best offensive player was on the sideline on third-and-goal. Brandon Wesley, in the midst of maybe his best performance ever at Bucknell, wasn't hurt. He was sidelined by one of the NCAA's newest rules after his helmet came off.
The new rule, instituted at all levels of college football, is pretty simple and has few loopholes. If a player's helmet comes off, they are required to sit out the next play, even if there was no contact. If it is the end of a quarter, the player sits the first play of the next quarter. Even if a coach uses a timeout -- which BU coach Joe Susan did on Saturday -- the player still needs to sit. In addition, if a player's helmet does come off, the play is to be blown dead immediately.
The only forgiveness in the rule comes if the helmet is deliberately knocked off with an illegal use of hands to the face penalty.
"The entire focus of college football, from the rules committee to the trainers, doctors and medical staff, is now on the concept of player safety," said Jim Corpora, the supervisor of officials for the Centennial Conference.
Corpora, who officiated last season's Alamo Bowl, said Monday that on the opening week of the season, Sept. 1, there roughly 200 incidents involving players losing their helmets around the country. Bill Carollo, the Big Ten's officiating coordinator, said there was a conference game last year where helmets came off 25 times.
"Right, wrong or otherwise, it's been happening in college football despite all the emphasis put on safety and correctly fitting the equipment," Corpora sad.
There were a handful of instances during Bucknell's season opener where the Bison lost their lids, but most came in the first half. Susan said a couple of them came when Marist players helped a BU player's helmet come off, and that's one of the rubs of the new rule.
"We made our guys tighten their chin straps up at halftime," Susan said. "A lot of guys get into this comfort zone in pregame and they don't re-tighten them. Some are unavoidable, but we had a couple where the helmets were escorted off (on Saturday)."
Some argue that the rule actually promotes tacklers to come in high, with hopes of possibly getting the helmet off in the process of the tackle. I get that concern, that in actuality it might be putting the head in greater danger, but I have yet to meet a football coach who has ever taught a player to tackle that way. I still have nightmares about a coaches yelling at me to put my facemask in his numbers and see what you're tackling.
And what of opponents' intentionally trying to knock a helmet off in the bottom of a pile or something like that? If a penalty is called, the player can stay in the game, but if no flag, the player must grab some pine for one snap.
Corpora said that officials have been told to focus on just that scenario, especially in the trenches where close combat is the name of the game.
"You see it a lot where offensive or defensive linemen get their hands up into someone's face," Corpora said. "It's been a point of emphasis for the umpire to really watch the interior linemen so we the calls right."
There are a couple of issues to think about with the new rule.
You better have your backups ready to go at all times on the sideline, which Bucknell was with Trey Lauletta. It forces players into the game at a moment's notice and the game's not going to stop and wait.
But if the object of the rule is to protect players, why does it stop there? There is no requirement for the player to get checked out by trainers during the play off. In the past, if it happened, the player may just pick up the helmet, pop it back on and continue. Now there is an opportunity to check that player out, but not a requirement.
That part I don't get. But maybe it's just me. Maybe I took a couple too many shots to the noggin during my playing days.
n Sports editor Bill Bowman covers college sports for The Daily Item. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/williambbowman.