Fake punt came at a good time

29-yard gain gave Cats needed dose of late momentum
2010-10-31T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:48:22Z Fake punt came at a good timePatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 31, 2010 12:00 am  • 

PASADENA, Calif. - Jake Fischer knew what to look for.

The Arizona Wildcats' punt team stood at the line of scrimmage with about five minutes remaining Saturday, kicking from its own 27-yard line to a UCLA team that had finally caught a whiff of momentum.

The UA led by five points.

Fischer, from Ironwood Ridge High School, lined up as the upback directly behind the long snapper.

He read his keys:

• UCLA was doubling both of Arizona's "gunners," the receivers that run down the field to be the first to cover the punt, with hopes of getting a longer return.

• After some late movement, the Bruins had six players in the "box" between the Wildcats' two tackles. The UA had five down linemen to block them - all but a player lined up over the long snapper.

• R.J. Young, flanked to Fischer's right, was responsible for that one extra block.

Fischer turned to Young.

"Do you want to do this?" he asked.

Young nodded his head.

"Hell yeah," he said.

On the sideline, coach Mike Stoops wondered what was going on. Fischer could have audibled out of the fake had he not seen the formation he wanted.

"They were fiddling around back there; I saw them talking to each other," Stoops said. "I did get a little bit nervous."

Then Fischer barked out the call that said the fake was still on.

Chase Gorham snapped the ball directly to Fisher, who ran left.

Punter Keenyn Crier jumped in the air like a lucha libre wrestler, pretending the ball had been snapped over his head.

Tito Foster, to Fischer's left, ran into the flat to freeze the player responsible for him.

And Fisher ran left of the snapper, through a hole the size of the La Brea Tar Pits -for 29 yards and a first down.

"I was just looking for our guys to open up the hole," Fischer said. "The hole was huge; all I had to really do was run through it."

While the trickery didn't lead to a score in the Wildcats' 29-21 victory Saturday, it gave the UA a boost of momentum for the first time since the third quarter.

It also chewed up clock and "flipped" the field, forcing the run-first Bruins to start their next possession at their 20.

"It was just the right time, changing the momentum," Stoops said. "I just thought we were on our heels a lot in the fourth quarter."

The Wildcats practiced the fake all week, after seeing a weakness because UCLA double-teamed the gunners.

Earlier in the second half, Stoops asked special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt if UCLA was playing the same return coverage it had on film, and if the fake would work.

He said yes.

Stoops called the fake.

"We thought it was there all day," Stoops said. "They kinda took the bait and doubled our receivers. That's when you have to call those plays.

"You have to have enough courage and toughness to make them and execute them."

Unlike his brother Bob at Oklahoma, Mike Stoops rarely calls fakes. It was a matter of weighing the risk against reward, he said.

Saturday, it was brilliant, because it worked. If not, UCLA would have been positioned 27 yards away from a touchdown to take the lead.

"In that situation, in that game, the last thing I would have expected was a fake punt," said linebacker Paul Vassallo, who plays right tackle on the punt team. "But I think I guess that's probably the best time to run it.

"To be able to pick momentum back up on our side, it's just critical."

Extra points

• Running back Nicolas Grigsby suffered a sprained right ankle in the first half and did not return, finishing with five carries for 29 yards. Stoops said the injury wasn't serious, but Grigsby felt his burst of speed was lacking.

• UA cornerback Shaquille Richardson, who left UCLA after being arrested on a suspicion of theft, forced a fumble and broke up the Bruins' pass on fourth-and-11 with 2:17 left.

• UCLA kick returner Damien Thigpen sustained a broken clavicle, and receiver Jerry Johnson suffered a broken left ankle. Both will miss the rest of the season.

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