Breakdown: Crazy? Yes. But KU fake punt 'definitely had a chance' if blocked correctly


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?

Later punt formation

Later punt formation by Jesse Newell

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."


gorilla10 8 years, 12 months ago

I feel that if those three guys knew for sure we were faking a punt they would have been more aggressive to make contact. They were clearly waiting for the defense to make contact to hold their ground. This one play was a terrible called and definitely changed the entire momentum of the game but like I've said, we can't let one play control our mentality the rest of the game! If KU leaves Heaps in and take away that fake punt this game is close throughout if you ask me.....Time to fix these mistakes and move on. Rock Chalk

KGphoto 8 years, 12 months ago

So true. If Tedarian blocks his guy Pardula would still be running.

741hawk 8 years, 12 months ago

Yep. Isn't he a JuCo . . . new to the program?

KGphoto 8 years, 12 months ago

In his defense there was a miscommunication between the kicker and the team. It seems Pardula was the only one to realize Tech’s achilles heel. There should’ve been a signal or a call to the rest of the team. Tedarian was just trying to avoid a blocked kick.

johnnyhrdwd 8 years, 12 months ago

There is a 3rd defender that peels off that he would have had to beat to make it all the way to the 29. This play works every 1 in 100 times.

KGphoto 8 years, 12 months ago

That defender never saw Pardula start to run. He was sold on the return, and he was running the other way.

CharlieHawk 8 years, 12 months ago

Oh man! So close! Only if Bigfoot would of ran out of the stands and thrown a block, it might of worked... What is going on with LJ staff? Tait picking 5 wins the last 2 years and Keegan saying nobody in Big 12 scares him this year, not you to jesse.

Jesse Newell 8 years, 12 months ago

For those wondering, I cut up the video then send it to Coach. I don't make any comments to him beforehand; I simply ask him to watch the play and tell me what he sees. He knows more than I do about football (he's paid to coach it for a living), so I'm interested to hear his take. His first take here was the play could have worked. That's what I put in the blog.

If reporting what this coach has to say about a play — he has no ties to Weis and has been plenty critical of his players and team in other blogs and this one — makes me biased, then I'm happy to be guilty as charged.

HighQ 8 years, 12 months ago

Cynicism runs

Rampant on these boards. Don't get

Sucked in their vortex.

Brad Farha 8 years, 12 months ago

In one of my last anonymous posts on this site, I happen to agree with Jesse on this one. I wish we had not tried the fake punt, but looking how it was setup it had a good chance. I suspect poor communication doomed this from the start.

AZJHWK 8 years, 12 months ago

This strikes me a Shoulda Coulda Woulda play, the protectors should of known it was a fake, they could of blocked, and we would of got a first down. Or, Pardula Shoulda heaved it as far as he could throw, one of our guys Coulda caught it, or we Woulda got a pass interference call, or an illegal man down field, or an interception, or something that Shoulda been better.

Marc Frey 8 years, 12 months ago

I watched Michigan State pull off a fake punt moments later. Better athletes who executed. They were at mid-field and still got 15 yards. Amazing they could do it in a spot when it is expected, and we can not at a place and time when it is not expected.

justanotherfan 8 years, 12 months ago

If this was a call from the sidelines, why did it appear that the personal protectors didn't know the fake was on?

If this was a read, again, why wasn't there a cadence to alert everyone that the fake was on?

That's not an execution error, that's a coaching mistake. The call has to be clear - the read should be clear. From Weis' comments, the situation wasn't what they had discussed for the auto read to put the fake on. To me, that sounds like the personal protectors saw the alignment, knew that it wasn't the situation that they had gone over to run the fake, and thought the punt was on. Once Pardula took off, they tried to get going, but by then they were out of position.

If a fake is on, everyone that has to execute a block needs to know that they have to execute. Here, they didn't know, so they couldn't execute. That's not on the players.

DanR 8 years, 12 months ago

A coach actually said "Big-time risk-reward" about this play, in this situation? Tie ballgame, mid 2nd quarter, 4th and 13, punter standing on our own goal line.

The risk is handing tech a minimum of 3 points gift-wrapped and the lead. The reward is just a first down, still on our own 30 yd line, still tied, still second quarter. In other words, THERE IS NO REWARD.

Even if it had worked, it was the dumbest play I've seen in years.

gorilla10 8 years, 12 months ago

Agreed, but after a couple three and outs the risk is momentum thanks to a play that is rarely used! I agree, dumb call but you're wrong on the reward. This is the type of play that swings momentum and returns confidence to a team that desperately needs it to be successful. If this did work, I say huge reward for KU with a big swing of momentum and frustration on the Tech sideline.....

VaJay 8 years, 12 months ago

DanR - I was slowly scrolling down the posts, preparing to write just about exactly what you said. The only thing I would add is why would coach Weis EVER give a green light for any fake inside your own 30 yard line. Everywhere else in the country, I bet there's a hard & fast rule about WHERE on the field you pull that kind of stuff. I've never seen this crazy a thing in college football.

jgkojak 8 years, 12 months ago

I do this kind of thing on Madden. It doesn't work in the real world.

moose1 8 years, 12 months ago

I am all for taking a reasonable risk from time to time. There is nothing that justifies faking a punt at your own 16 with 13 yards to go for a first down. I agree with DanR it is just a dumb play in that situation. If it is 4th and 3 at the 50, that would be a reasonable risk. This was just not smart at all.

kureader 8 years, 12 months ago

Pardula clearly didn't make the decision to run until after the ball was snapped. And, it is clear from the video that the blockers had no idea what was going on. Aside from the issue as to whether Pardula made an effort to give a verbal signal to his three blockers who were obviously just a few feet away, there are two other issues that point to coaching. First, do you really give your first year punter the authority to run the football if he wants to? I think not. Then, why do you put three 300 lb. blockers on the punt team? They stood flat footed during the punt, they were incredibly slow to the sidelines ... heaven forbid if they had to make a tackle on a punt return. Now, we have four guys, not just the punter, who won't make a tackle in the open field. You use tight ends, linebackers or blocking backs to protect your punter. This isn't pass blocking, you don't have to hold your block, you just have to get in the way long enough to punt the flippin football. I'm hangin' this mistake on the special teams coach. It's hard to tell, but to me it appears that Weis fell on the sword for him and for Pardula.

CharlieHawk 8 years, 12 months ago

You think a fake punt on your own 16, with 13 yards to go, tied in 2nd qtr, was a good call Jesse?

CHEEZIT 8 years, 12 months ago

So the "Statue of Liberty" play Boise State used to defeat Oklahoma a couple of years back in a bowl game was a dumb play ? No, because it worked!!!

DanR 8 years, 12 months ago

Last play of the game from the OU four yard line. Genius.

Now, if they'd have run that from their own 4-yard line in the second quarter on fourth and 13, yeah, that would have been a dumb play, comparable to the KU fake punt.

ravenjayhawk 8 years, 12 months ago

It was a great call by the punter. everything lined up as such until the rusher up the middle slanted to the right at the split second the punter committed to the run. Probably if the three back blockers would have known, they might have contained the right side rusher to be contained. We knew we had to call the game on the edge to compete. Now whatever reasons we have to do that is another situation, but the thought behind the play was great.

DanR 8 years, 12 months ago

The two net-loss running plays and negative yardage pass reception prior to the fake punt were hardly on the edge.

I'm done pointing out the sheer stupidity of the play. Unfortunately, I now have serious doubts as to whether Weiss knows how to run an offense, although he might be really good at Madden NFL, as jgkojak pointed out above.

VaJay 8 years, 12 months ago

The point is - Weis should never have left this decision up to anyone on the field with the ball inside our 30, regardless of what the "look" was. Way too much downside, very little upside from this kind of thing.

Austin Bergstrom 8 years, 12 months ago

4th and 13 from your own 11 in a tied game?...enough said! This is real football not Madden 25. Analyze all the film you's the BPOTY: Bonehead Play Of The Year!

kay_you 8 years, 12 months ago

Just another example of how poorly prepared this team was when all the players on the field are not on the same page.

Kind of lets Pardula off the hook.

JayHawkFanToo 8 years, 12 months ago

"Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan."

Had the play worked and KU won, many of the people that continuously second guess HC Weis would be praising him instead.

DKmode50 8 years, 12 months ago

yep im done. jfc how can you take yourself seriously as a writer or a sports fan let alone a knowledgeable football fan with this "breakdown" know what seriously pisses me off? Charlie is flat out lying to you.....he clearly states his punter made a bad read after the game....meaning he saw something in the formation that wasnt there.......NOW hes saying it was there its just bad execution or not hearing a cadence and throwing even more players under the bus......? but THEN he cant eveb really put his tbumb on what exactly went wrong? how about you send in video back into offensive genius Weiss and ask him why the hell we didnt pick up a first down fkr nearly two quarters a d our defense once again leaked like a sieve once facing a better team? i was honestly hopeful this year.....thought we would bave made definitive strides to at LEAST be more competitive....... how can you argue we are? i frustrated as hell right now and sick of reading and listening to apologist bs. this team has beaten a 2 win FCS team and needed two goal line fumbles and a miracle fg to beat an awful LA Tech team.......i was at the orange bowl and this is just fing embarassing. know what other coached tried pulling "im smarter than you" fake punts on their ten? ron effing prince......there isnt an excuse for it............none. Zenger can kma if he thinks im donating to the cause before i see results which hes already begged me to do.

Randy Glenn 8 years, 12 months ago

My thought after it happened was if Pardula would have hit the ground out of bounds-good chance we get 15 yard penalty and automatic 1st down!!!!

Danny Hernandez 8 years, 12 months ago

as I thought, more stupid comments from stupid fans.

Brian mcKinney 8 years, 12 months ago

Love these breakdowns by Jesse, hindsight is interesting from a coach's perspective.

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