Field goals and punts are boring. Fake field goals and punts, well, there’s almost nothing in football more exciting than that.
Special teams trickery, including some plays that have backfired, have produced some of the best moments and biggest victories of the first half of the season.
MICHIGAN STATE’S MIRACLE — It will go down as one of the most memorable plays in the history of Michigan State football — or one of the most infamous if you’re a Notre Dame fan. The Fighting Irish took a 31-28 lead in overtime, and the Spartans were hoping to tie it up with a 46-yard field. Or not. Coach Mark Dantonio sent in a play called Little Giants, named for a kids’ movie. Holder/punter Aaron Bates took the snap, stood up and waited for Charlie Gantt to come open downfield. Bates hit Gantt in stride for the winning score in a 34-31 Michigan State victory and the signature play of the college football season so far. Adding to the drama, Dantonio had a mild heart attack just hours after the win.
LUCKY LES — Down three points and facing a fourth-and-3 from the Florida 36, LSU coach Les Miles sent kicker Josh Jasper on to try a 53-yard field goal with 35 seconds left. Instead, Miles pulled out a trick he had used successfully before. The holder flipped the ball over his head to the kicker coming around on a sweep. Only this time the flip hit the turf — and bounced perfectly into Jasper’s arms. He gained 4 yards to get the first down and LSU went on to win 33-29.
ONSIDE KICK GOES AWRY — Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville earned the nickname “Riverboat Gambler” when he was at Mississippi because he never shied away from taking risks. He took a shot early against Baylor, trying an onside kick after the Red Raiders had tied the game at 7. Problem was his team didn’t realize that although they couldn’t touch the ball before it went 10 yards, the other team could. Baylor’s Terrance Ganaway took advantage of Tech’s group brain cramp, grabbed the ball and darted 38 yards for a touchdown. The Red Raiders still went on to win 45-38.
FLORIDA FAKE OUT — Moving the ball has not come easy for the Florida Gators, even against struggling Tennessee. Moments after the Vols tied the game at 10, the Gators were lining up to give the ball right back with a punt on fourth-and-6 from the Florida 39. Instead, coach Urban Meyer called for a fake. The ball was snapped to upback Omarius Hines, who cut through a big hole in the line and raced for 39 yards. That led to a touchdown, and the Gators went on to win 31-17.
TEXAS 2 YARDS — Texas Tech was the foil for this one, too. Texas faced a fourth-and-1 at its own 30, leading by only 17-14 late in the third quarter. Mack Brown dialed up a fake punt and Ryan Roberson surged ahead for 2 yards. It was part of a 22-play, touchdown drive that helped the Longhorns win 24-14. “Nobody with any sense would call a fake punt on their own 30, leading by very little. I thought it would be a surprise, and Ryan Roberson’s a good back,” Brown said afterward. “I told Ryan if he messed it up, head west. I wasn’t going to see him again, and I’d probably have to go with him.”
FAKE FAILED — A few hours before LSU pulled off its fake, Alabama ran one that turned out to be a dud. Trailing 28-21 and facing a fourth-and-11 from the South Carolina 25, Alabama faked the field goal and had holder and freshman backup quarterback A.J. McCarron roll out and flip a pass to freshman linebacker Ed Stinson. Stinson dropped the ball, but probably would not have had enough room to run even if he hadn’t, and South Carolina went to win 35-21.