Les Miles, the resident Mad Hatter in Baton Rouge, reached into his bag of tricks for a fake field goal to beat Florida on Saturday in Death Valley. Miles has been known for late game risks and fakes, including field goals. How’d he pull this one off? Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it, from Saturday Down South.
Florida is in an aggressive field goal block defense. The entire Gator defense is along the line of scrimmage except for one safety. Then at the snap, every defender except for the safety and one player on the left side of the Florida formation rushes the kick to block it. Why did that player one player on the left side (from Florida’s view) not aggressively rush, probably because Florida remembered this play and this play. History and film review taught them that LSU has a fake field goal play running to the right.
The ball was snapped to the holder who started to set the ball down like normal. As the ball was being snapped the kicker moved laterally to get as far outside as possible, then the holder threw him the ball. The Florida defense on that side of the ball took themselves out of the play during their normal kick block rush.
The two LSU players furthest on the left side immediately released to go block any defenders who would be flowing to the ball. The pass or lateral was behind the line of scrimmage. It is important it happen that way. The pass being behind the LOS allows the blockers to block downfield without pass interference being called.
Speaking of the rules, isn’t a player down when his knee is on the ground? Yes, usually that is true. Rule 4-1-3-b is the one stating that if part of the player touches the ground, other than his foot or hand, he is down. However, in the case of a kick being held by a teammate, the player is not down. The exception then specifies that the ball may be kicked, passed or advanced.
This was a simple and effective fake. The scheme was simple in that the kicker need only get outside of the rushing defenders and catch the ball behind the line. Had Florida been in a more conservative defensive alignment, it probably would still have worked because of the two blockers stopping flow.
The timing, of course, was of critical importance. It was 4th quarter of a tie game. You’re supposed to kick the ball to take the lead then. It was 4th down and 13; you don’t fake it when you need 13 yards. It was a 33 yard field goal. That distance is long enough that blocking it is possible and worthwhile to attempt. It wasn’t too short (almost certainly to be made) or too long (likely to be missed or faked). It was the right distance to try to block. The fake call was so effective because it wasn’t the time to fake, and everyone knew it, even Florida.