Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Second Guessing the Fake FG

Greetings from sunny Pittsburgh, PA!

It hasn't been very often during Tim Brewster's time as Gopher head coach that I've disagreed with an in-game coaching decision that he has made. (Afterall, the blogosphere IS the true litmus test for coaching competency... isn't it?)

The NDSU game comes to mind last year when the Gophers were on defense, the play clock was winding down, NDSU had not yet broken their offensive huddle, and WE called a timeout.

Generally I've appreciated Brewster's ability to make in-game adjustments and his aggressive style. But I thought his aggression was a bit misguided on Saturday against N'Western on the fake field goal.

Let's look at the situation leading up to this decision: The score is 17-17, neither team had scored since the first half, and the 3rd quarter is winding down. The Gophers drive to N'Western's 3 yard line, and Joel Monroe attempts and misses a 20 yard field goal. We could discuss the merits of going for it or kicking the FG on 4th & goal from the 3 yard line, but points were hard to come by in this game for the Gophers, so we'll go ahead and assume going for the FG was the right choice.

On N'Western's next drive Traye Simmons makes his second interception of Mike Kafka of the day and the returns it to the Gopher's 44 yard line. Weber runs (our most productive play call throughout the day) for 19 yards on 1st down to the NW 37 yard line. Then a short pass complete to Decker gets us to the 31 and two incomplete passes bring up 4th down.

Out trots Joel Monroe, who had just missed a 20 yard field goal on the Gophers previous possession, for about a 48 yard field goal.

At this point I turned to Jeffrick and said "fake."

And I can't imagine that I was alone. I think that probably everyone in the Metrodome, and everyone watching the game on ESPN2 probably knew the fake was coming. And CLEARLY Pat Fitzgerald knew it was coming.

What are the chances that you are really going to kick that FG after your kicker had just missed a chip-shot on the previous drive?

And I think that that stop for N'Western was the play of the game because it fired them up and brought the momentum back to them. They were nothing close to dynamic after that point, but the game took on a very different feel after that point.

I don't agree with the call. On 4th & 4 from your opponent's 31 yard line I think you keep your kicker (who isn't consistent anyway) and you find a way to pick up that 4 yards. You've got the best reciever and the best tight end in the Big Ten on your squad, and the QB draw has been working all day. There HAS to be a way to find 4 yards on that play.

And if you don't get it, you have a defense that has played well all day (outside of the opening drive).

Look, I get it, if the fake FG works, Brewster looks like a gunslinging genius. Or, if you go for it on 4th and don't get it, everyone is going to say that you should have gone for the FG. There were three options in that situation, you go for it, you kick the FG, or you fake the FG. My opinion is that faking the FG is the worst option of the three and the fact that it was obviously coming makes it even worse.


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