How Many Quarters Are in a Football Game? (NFL, NCAA, Youth)

A packed college football stadium.

When we seek to understand the structure of a football game, it is not always easy to differentiate between professional, college, high school, and youth levels. The quarters and their layout in a football game differ depending on the level of competition.

So, how many quarters are in a football game?

All football games are divided into four quarters. However, the length of the quarters depends on the level of play. Quarters in the NFL and college are 15 minutes, while high school and youth quarters are 12 and generally 10 minutes respectively.

Throughout the rest of this article, we will examine each level of football, the length of the quarters, and the special procedures that occur within each quarter that make the game the complex sport that it is. Keep on reading and by the end of this article, you will feel confident in your knowledge of football quarters.

How Many Quarters Are in a Football Game?

A typical football game has four quarters. There is a halftime, or break, between the first two quarters and the last two quarters.

How Do Quarters Work in Football?

Quarters are used to provide a structure to the game. Quarters contain a certain amount of time depending on the level of play. Quarters are used because certain quarters may contain certain rules.

For example, in professional football play, the clock stops with two minutes left in the second and fourth quarter – but not the first and third. Breaking up the game into quarters allows for nuances in the procedures of the game to contribute to the strategy of the game.

How Long Is Each Quarter in Football?

From the youth to professional level, the amount of time in each quarter increases to accommodate the endurance, skill, and spectator interest in the sport.

Youth football games are the shortest in large part due to the physical endurance and the ability of youth to concentrate for shorter periods of time.

Professional football games are the longest because they are the highest standard of endurance and skill, and provide a longer game for fans, which increases sales and TV viewership.

How Long Are Quarters in College Football?

Quarters in college football are 15 minutes in length. We will talk about this later in the article, but professional football games have a two-minute warning at the end of the second and fourth quarters, while college football games do not.

How Long Are Quarters in High School Football?

Quarters in high school football are 12 minutes in length. Just like college football games, there is no two-minute warning.

How Long Are Quarters in Youth Football?

A youth football player kicks the ball.

Quarters in youth football depend on the age of the players. In general, youth football games are 10 minutes in length. There is a possibility for running clocks or stopping the clock only during certain parts of the game.

The running clock may always occur or when one team is winning by a certain point margin. This is done to reach the end of the game faster in order to reduce the demoralization of the other team.

How Long Does It Take to Play a Quarter?

A typical 15-minute professional or college quarter takes about 45 minutes in real-time. Or a proportion of three real minutes for every elapsed game minute. A general rule of thumb is to take the length of game time and multiply it by three to get an idea of how long a quarter will take to play.

What Happens After Each Quarter?

What happens at the end of each quarter depends on which quarter it is and the level of play.

At the end of the first quarter, the offensive team travels in the opposite direction they traveled in the first quarter. For example, if they were traveling from the viewer’s left to right at their own 30-yard line, then the ball would be moved to the other 30-yard line and the offensive team would travel to the viewer’s right to left.

At the end of the second quarter, both teams go into halftime to recover and strategize for the second half of the game.

Regardless of who had the ball or where the ball was located, the team who elected to receive the ball at the start of the game will kick the ball off at the start of the second half, or third quarter.

Recall that in professional games, the clock stops with two minutes left before the end of the second quarter. This is a strategic timeout allotted to both teams without using a team timeout.

The end of the third quarter is the same as the end of the first quarter. The ball would travel from the viewer’s left to right to right to left or vice versa.

At the end of the fourth quarter, if the game is not tied, then the team with more points wins the game. If the game is tied, then an ensuing overtime period is played.

The type of overtime played depends on the level of competition. Professionals play their own type of overtime, while college and high school have their own rules; youth games may use one of these formats or not utilize overtime all together. 

There are even times when higher levels do not play overtime or additional overtimes depending on the rules.

How Many Quarters of Overtime Are There in Football?

In professional football, there is one 15-minute overtime period. The format of play has changed over the years, but current play involves a first to score approach. The first team to score a touchdown on offense or defense wins the game.

If a team kicks a field goal and scores three points, the other team is given one chance to tie or score their own touchdown to win. If this team fails to score, then the team that kicked the first successful field goal wins.

Overtime in college and high school football is completely different from professional play. Teams take turns starting offensive drives from the opponent’s 25-yard line. The down and distances are the same as a regular game.

The first team gets an opportunity to score by kicking a field goal for three points or by scoring a touchdown with a point after attempt. The second team then gets a chance to score as well. Whichever team has more points at the end of the first-round wins.

If they are still tied, then a second round of overtime is played. Once teams get to the third round of overtime, if they score a touchdown, they have to attempt a two-point conversion rather than a point after kick attempt.

This is done to decide the game and reduce the number of overtimes played.

How Long Are Halves in Football?

A referee looks on at the game.

The halves in a football game are the sum of the first or last two quarters. In a professional football game with two 15 minute quarters, the total length of the first half or second half would be 30 minutes each.

In regular time, 30 minutes of a football game equates to about 1 ½ hours of real-time.

How Long Is Halftime in Football?

High school through professional levels all have a 15-minute halftime period. Youth levels may also follow this length of time but it can also be shorter.

What Is the 2-Minute Warning?

The two-minute warning is a strategic structure of the game where the clock stops at 2:00 or at the end of the first play after 2:00 in the second and fourth quarters. It is a timeout not taken by any one team but acts as a timeout period.

The two-minute warning can be used strategically at the end of each half, like a timeout, or can be used along with timeouts, for an offensive team to find a way to score before the end of each half.

What Is the Game Clock in Football?

The game clock in football is the total time of each quarter. The clock runs while a play is active, in between plays that end in bounds. The clock will stop if a player travels out of the bounds with the ball, a team calls a timeout, or a penalty is called and assessed by the referees.

After penalties, if the clock was live at the end of the play, the clock would resume when the official blows their whistle. The play clock after a timeout only starts once the ball is snapped to start the next play.

If a play starts before the clocks run to 0:00, the play continues until it is over. Then, the next quarter would be ready to play.

What Is the Play Clock in Football?

The play clock is a separate timing structure within football that is used to ensure the offensive team runs a play within a certain amount of time. For example, if a play ends, the ball is set, and the official blows their whistle to signal the beginning of the new play.

The game clock would continue to run. A new play clock, usually 30-40 seconds, starts on the whistle. The offensive team has, say, 40 seconds to run their next play. If the play does not start and time has elapsed, the offensive team is assessed a “delay of game” penalty and moves back five yards.

Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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