“Well, on film we thought we had it.”
That’s what BYU coach Kalani Sitake said at halftime when asked why he’d called for a fake punt in the second quarter on fourth-and-19 from his team’s own 5-yard line. It did not succeed.
Hey, what are you going to do—sometimes you make an incredibly dumb decision and it just doesn’t work out. But at least the Cougars coaches had looked at film!
That film, though, seems to have been loaded in the projector upside down. Or maybe the BYU staff was watching YouTube videos of some kid’s loopy Madden game by mistake. Or perhaps they saw a clip of this old LSU fake and got very excited when they saw the team in blue allow the punter to run 70 yards into the end zone.
This was actually BYU’s third punt of the game. Here’s the first, in which the Cougars’ Jonny Linehan barely gets the ball away under heavy pressure. Good thing they didn’t call a fake!
On punt No. 2, Linehan is under siege from five Boise State rushers before booting the ball away. If he’d tried to run for it, he would’ve been crushed.
But that’s not all: Immediately before the fake, BYU punts the ball again, though the action gets whistled dead due to a penalty.
Watching that play, there’s no reason to think a fake is going to work. And yet, during a subsequent timeout, the BYU coaches ostensibly thought this through and decided to open up the old playbook. Let’s watch this thing again.
I count at least seven Boise State players in position to tackle Linehan—who is a punter—a good 20 yards shy of the first-down line. In his halftime interview, Sitake credited Boise State for making “a great adjustment.” He also noted that Boise didn’t score on the subsequent drive, so I guess it wasn’t that bad of a call. (It was a very, very bad call.)
BYU’s fake punt of the damned calls to mind this fake field goal by the Jim Zorn–coached Washington NFL team in 2009:
This 2015 fake punt by the Indianapolis Colts will also never stop being funny:
And just last week, Army punter Nick Schrage decided to take a run for it on fourth-and-44 for some unknown reason:
Those first two plays were failures of execution. It was futile but not stupid for Washington to fake a field goal down 24–0 at the end of the first half. Calling a fake punt on fourth-and-3 against the high-scoring Patriots makes sense, too. The Army blunder was a bizarre mental error—nobody had called for a fake and Schrage got some strange infusion of punter adrenaline.
Thursday night’s BYU brain fart stands alone as an unholy agglomeration of gridiron mistakes—a horrible coaching decision compounded by an inability to block anyone on the opposing team. On the scoreboard, BYU lost to Boise State 28–27. On film, well, they still lost, but at least we all won.