Ohio State was lucky to leave the field with a win in 2016. They were the favorites, and let’s just say that Michigan State covered the spread. They lost by just 1 point, 17-16.
LJ Scott scored a 1-yard touchdown to put the Spartans within a point with 4:53 to play. MSU went for the 2-point conversion to try and take a lead instead of a tying extra-point attempt, but the Buckeyes’ Malik Hooker intercepted Tyler O’Connor’s pass intended for Jamal Lyles.
In the 4th quarter, with just over 14 minutes on the clock, and down 10-17 vs. the Buckeyes, Coach Dantonio called for the fake punt.
Here is why it worked!
- The Buckeyes were “outflanked” from the start on this play. And that’s an absolute key for special teams fakes. Similar to running a sweep on an offensive play, you need to be able to hook that end. Here in the pic below, you can see that the tight end seems to have leverage on the DE, he has him outflanked.
2. No “overhang” player. A big part of the reason that they got outflanked is because there was no “overhang” player, which you can see in the picture below. The closest thing to an overhang player is #14, but he is almost 15 yards off the line of scrimmage.
Michigan State has the numbers on their side. From the center to the left side, they have 5 players in the box at the line of scrimmage. The Buckeyes have just four. This leaves an extra blocker to help lead the way, and get the first threat.
I also think that it is interesting that the tight end, #81, is holding his left arm out to the left. Do we ever see tight ends holding out their arm like that? My guess is this: he’s telling his teammates, and maybe even the coaching staff, that he has leverage on that defensive end. He’s telling them that he can hook that guy, and the play will work! That’s just my guess. He’s giving a signal.
3. We see the play start, and notice right away, as I pointed out above, that Defensive End, for some reason, does not have contain responsibility. The tight end does a great job of blocking him, getting his hips turned and hooking him inside. The tackle is also doing a fine job of hooking his man, #12.
You can also see the back starting to read where that hole will develop.
4. Remember when we said that Michigan State was +1? Meaning that they had one person more than the Buckeyes? Here below we see him, #30 as the lead blocker. This view also shows that the tight end has completely walled off that defensive end.
5. Look at all of that green real estate!! I love it. Four buckeyes are chasing from behind, that’s the backside who came in to block the punt. The running back has a lead blocker, and is en route to more than 20 yards for a huge first down!
And that’s how Michigan State put themselves in a great position to tie the football game! The absolute key to a great punt fake is: having leverage, sealing the end, and having the numbers. If you do not have the numbers, meaning that you have a +1, then do NOT attempt a fake punt. It’s just too risky, in my opinion.
Chris Fore is the Special Teams Coordinator at Victor Valley College. He coached high school football in Southern California for 16 years, including 8 as a Head Coach. Fore has published 28 Kick and Punt Returns and Blocks, as well as the Shield Punt Manual. He is a speaker with the Glazier Clinics, and a Coaches Choice author. Fore runs Eight Laces Consulting, and also teaches in the Masters of Physical Education program at Azusa Pacific University.