For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
Let's take a look at the Kansas football team's much-talked-about fake punt attempt in Saturday's 54-16 loss to Texas Tech. A reminder of the game situation: The score was tied 10-10 with 6:08 left in the second quarter, with KU facing fourth-and-13 from its own 16.
Right away, Coach can tell this is a punt return for Texas Tech by the positioning of its players.
How does he know? Look at each of Tech's players pre-snap and you can do the same.
If a Tech player is going to rush the punter, he gets in a runner's stance, putting one foot in front of the other like a sprinter would.
If a Red Raider is blocking, he squares his feet up to the line to get ready to run backwards.
Ready to test your skills? Just for fun, here's a punt from later in the game. Can you tell me how many Texas Tech is rushing on the play?
If you said three, you are correct. Each of the players that had one foot in front of the other made it upfield, while the other players blocked.
Let's get back to the fake punt.
Coach says the two players going upfield for Tech (red circles below) are called "check kick" guys. Their job isn't to block the punt ... it's to make sure that KU punter Trevor Pardula actually kicks it and no fakes are on.
Coach notices that Tech isn't necessarily sound in its formation, though. He says when his team sends two "check kick" guys, it sends one guy from each side to make sure that they funnel the punter back to the inside.
In this play, Tech has one player coming from the right side of the line and one coming from the middle — potentially leaving the left side open for a big play.
Whether they know a fake is on or not, most of KU's line does a good job of clearing out space. They sprint downfield to cover the punt, dragging nearly every Tech player along with them.
That leaves KU three players in the shield (blue circle below) to block the two "check kick" guys.
From here, Coach says it's hard to tell why the play went wrong.
On his team, when a fake punt is called, every one of his players on the field knows it, as it is signaled to the team based on the call and cadence of the snap count.
From the video, Coach says one of two things happened to KU: 1. The three shield players didn't know a fake was on, or 2. They all failed miserably in trying to execute blocks.
One reason Coach doesn't believe the shield players knew about the punt is the action of No. 99 Tedarian Johnson, who is on the far left of the shield. When the Texas Tech player rushes toward him, he protects his inside shoulder. That makes sense on a normal punt, as he wouldn't want the Tech player to get to Pardula.
If Johnson knew it was a fake, Coach says this should be an easy block. Johnson could take a couple steps to the outside shoulder of the rushing Tech player, then pin him to the inside. The other personal protector (No. 91 Shane Smith) could then flow upfield to serve as a lead blocker on the play.
Notice at the top of the screen, No. 73 Damon Martin also doesn't try too hard at a block on Tech's other "check kick" guy, who eventually makes the tackle on the opposite side.
It's still hard for Coach to tell if it's bad execution or bad communication, as KU's shield players do run hard after the play is a few seconds in, making it difficult to know if they knew the fake was coming.
Either way, the Jayhawks had three players to block two, and they ended up blocking neither guy.
From Jayhawk Slant's Hawk Talk Recap from Monday night, here's what KU coach Charlie Weis said about the fake punt: "I think even when you are backed up in that situation and the look wasn't identical (to what team wanted to run the fake), if the two things that weren't done were done, it would have been an easy productive play."
Now, you know which two things he was talking about.
As for the situation is was called — on a fourth-and-13 at KU's own 16 — Coach said this might be a better play for fourth-and-seven or fourth-and-eight, which wouldn't put as much pressure on KU to make a big play.
Also, the field position definitely is a factor.
"It’s also an area where a team is not expecting a fake either, so it might work out even better," Coach says. "When we watch special teams film every week, we look for certain fakes or different things we can use against a team.
"Now, I’m not sure the head man would let us call it on our own 16-yard line, but it is something that we look at every week and try to have different wrinkles in."
The bottom line for this fake from KU?
"Big-time risk-reward," Coach says, "but it definitely had a chance."
Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 54-16 loss to No. 20 Texas Tech.
Here are a few takeaways:
KU's defense played horribly ... wait, no it didn't
This game is a perfect example that shows why it's best to give football box score numbers more context.
A quick glance at the numbers, and someone would see that KU gave up 54 points and 518 yards to Texas Tech and assume the Jayhawks played lousy defense.
That wasn't the case, as Texas Tech's yards per play (5.2) and yards per possession (30.5) were actually below the NCAA average.
So what gives?
Much like basketball, raw numbers can be skewed based on possessions. If North Carolina's basketball team leads the nation in scoring each year, that doesn't necessarily mean the Tar Heels have the best offense; it simply means they've scored the most points, which is affected by a team's scoring and pace.
The same applies to football. On Saturday, Texas Tech — mostly because KU's offense couldn't stay on the field for any length of time — ran a whopping 100 plays, which is 26 plays above the NCAA average.
And while KU's defense didn't necessarily have a good game, it certainly played well enough against a talented offense to not allow 54 points.
It's not easy to see at first glance (or with a standard box score), but Tech's high scoring on Saturday said was much more a result of KU's failures on offense rather than its defense.
Nothing is working for KU offensively
Let's not sugarcoat it: This was a truly putrid performance by KU's O.
The Jayhawks mustered just 16.1 yards per possession, which is barely half of the NCAA average (31 yards per possession).
But the bad news doesn't end there. Even after taking sacks out of the rushing equation, KU averaged just 2.1 yards per carry on 34 carries. What's scarier for KU: Just six of those 34 rushes (18 percent) went for five yards or more. Six. It can't be easy to commit to the run when an inexperienced offensive line is only clearing a hole on every fifth play.
Meanwhile, the passing game — after showing better efficiency against LA Tech — also regressed, as the Jayhawks completed just 18 passes on 38 dropbacks (attempts plus sacks). It's the third time this year in four games that KU hasn't been able to complete passes on half its dropbacks.
KU can be proud that it did produce some explosive plays (seven total), but that also is a bit of a downer. Tony Pierson, who had three of KU's 20-plus-yard catches, will most likely miss a few weeks after suffering a head injury in the third quarter.
In short, a KU offense that can't move the ball will now have to go without one of its only explosive playmakers.
Weis has quite a task ahead of him in preparing an offensive gameplan for TCU.
KU's defense not giving up big plays
Out of 100 plays, Texas Tech had just six that I would label "explosive" — runs of 12 or more or passes of 20 or more. Again, this is significant progress, as KU's defense is making opponents earn the points they get with long drives.
Remember just a couple years ago when Georgia Tech had four, 50-plus-yard plays against KU in a 66-24 win? Those days of the Jayhawks getting gashed for huge yardage appear to be gone, thanks to better players and also improved organization with defensive coordinator Dave Campo and linebackers coach Clint Bowen in charge.
Still ... KU's pass defense wasn't as good as past weeks
The Jayhawks allowed a season-high 6.8 yards per pass attempt and 10.9 yards per completion to the Red Raiders. While those numbers aren't awful, they are the highest KU has allowed this year (The previous highs against KU: LA Tech averaged 4.5 yards per pass attempt, while Rice was at 9.8 yards per completion.).
Though most of the plays were small chunks — KU allowed just three, 20-plus-yard passing plays — the Jayhawks did finally show some vulnerability in their pass defense after an excellent first quarter.
KU had some bad luck with turnovers
No, it wouldn't have made a difference in the final outcome, but the score would have been closer had KU gotten a few more bounces.
While forcing fumbles is a skill, studies have shown recovering fumbles is basically luck (and a 50-50 proposition for each team). Out of seven fumbles Saturday, KU fell on only one of them (14 percent). That might not seem like it would make much difference, but turnovers, on average, are worth about five points each when you take into account the field position lost by the offense and gained by the defense. Normal fumble luck (and three recoveries instead of one) could have resulted in a 10-point swing for KU.
The Jayhawks also continued to display active hands in the secondary. KU had 10 pass breakups, and studies have shown that over time, 21 percent of pass breakups result in interceptions. KU probably was "due" one extra interception based on the number of times it was able to knock away throws.
This is a big reason why I believe KU will win at least one Big 12 game this year: Turnovers make a huge difference in games, and the Jayhawks' secondary has shown a tendency to always be around the ball.
The Jayhawks should be intercepting quite a few more passes before the year is out.
KU killed by field position
Another reason Texas Tech racked up 54 points that wasn't KU defense's fault? Terrific field position for the Red Raiders.
TTU's average start was its own 44, while KU's was its own 26 ... an 18-yard difference.
In games between FBS teams last year, teams with a 16-yard-or-greater advantage in field position went 62-2 (96.9 percent win percentage).
Field position is a combination of many factors, but obviously the Jayhawks' six three-and-outs, four turnovers and failed fake punt all contributed to Tech's domination in the stat Saturday.