Up until the 19th century, many version of what can be called mob football existed. In fact, this variety may have inspired alternative ideas about the development of American football, although the formation of American football was ultimately tied to the development of rugby. Older American universities, particularly Harvard and Yale, had developed student traditions. These games initially had few clear rules except masses of students would play together and two sides would compete to possess a ball and try to achieve some points with this ball. The games were more like soccer but much more violent. In fact, some places began banning the sports due to the excessive violence. Things began to change, however, by 1869, when Rutgers and
Yale played what effectively became known as the first intercollegiat football game. This game was still very different from American football but was a watershed because it standardized the game, with rules being set prior to the match. Furthermore, early coaches, names of positions, and many early strategies have their origin with this game, effectively making it a key moment in the history of American football. Nevertheless, scoring involved kicking the ball, which was the origin of the field goal, and the two teams each had 25 players. In 1876, an association of Harvard, Columbia, and Yale formed a group that formalized rules, although kicking was the way in which a team would score points. That was the year the first formal Thanksgiving game was also played. By 1875, or what became the touchdown, was invented. It was only by 1881 that the touchdown took precedent over the field goal. Throwing the football first occurred in 1895, which only emerged as a team was desperate to score before time ran out. By this time, many universities in the east coast and increasingly in the west coast began to adopt the emerging game of American football (Figure 2). However, this was still considered an illegal move and it was not until 1906 that the forward pass was formally adopted. By 1905, what became the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which helped to not only organize games around the country but helped establish more formal rules. By then, more than 432 cities had some form of American football team. Even the concept of the halftime show emerged by 1907 in Champaign, Illinois. The popularity may have reflect American social norms at the time, which included embracing leisure activities in greater numbers and the social Darwinian aspects of the game, which emphasized competition and fitness for the best teams.
In 1909, a touchdown worth six points and field goal worth three were introduced. At this point, American football developed more greatly as the game was opened up more. In fact, as more universities adopted football, it also became an interest for universities to protect their players and students. A crisis in 1905-1906 led to the realization there needed to be changes in the rules in American football to make it less violent. Thus, many of the rules were intended to protect players but they also helped radically change the game. It may seem ironic but it was finding new rules to protect players that allowed American football to begin to look even more different from its rugby counterpart. In particular, rules protecting the passer became of greater importance. Rules for catching the ball and who can catch the ball downfield were made easier by the 1910s. In fact, further crises of safety, where at the high school level many players died or were severely injured, influenced more reforms. In particular, the introduction of the line of scrimmage and number of players that had to align there has its origin in this crisis. At times in the 1910s, American football was severely criticized for its excessive violence and what appeared to be overly competitive behavior that emphasized winning at all costs. World War I, however, in a way made those sentiments more popular, as competition and athletics were seen as ways for men to become better soldiers. This helped to make the game once again very popular.
[[File:1895 Auburn - Georgia football game at Piedmont Park in Atlanta Georgia.jpg|thumbnail|Figure 2. Auburn vs. Georgia football game in 1895.]]