If the U.S. military is able to deploy subterfuge and deception as well as Army’s football team did during this game-sealing fake punt, our national security is in good hands:
The Black Knights led in the final three minutes against Buffalo on Saturday, but they faced a fourth-and-5 just shy of midfield. So coach Jeff Monken’s choices were to give Buffalo a shot with the ball — needing a touchdown to win — or not give Buffalo a shot with the ball. Monken opted for a fake punt, and it worked brilliantly.
The score at that point went final: Army 21, Buffalo 17.
Because of the clock situation, this was a game-clinching fake.
Buffalo exhausted its three second-half timeouts after the three plays directly before the Army fake. The Bulls’ strategy had basically worked, and their offense was slated to get the ball back with about 2:20 left on the clock.
But Army had other ideas. There’s no two-minute warning in college, so when the Knights got a first down on the fake, there was enough time left they could just drain the clock. Army possessed the ball for the rest of the game.
Sometimes, plays like this one aren’t designed as pure fakes.
Punter Nick Schrage needed five yards to preserve Army’s drive. He rolled out to his right for a rugby-style boot. These plays can have built-in option reads.
If the punter sees a bunch of open grass in front of him, he’s allowed to take off. If the area’s covered, he punts. Last year, SMU caught Houston in a similar circumstance and got an easy conversion. As rollout punts become more popular, so can these fakes.
Without asking the coaches or getting a close look at the punters’ eyes, it’s not clear when these fakes are options and when they’re strictly punts. But as an option, they’re a great way to give yourself a chance at extra yardage without exposing yourself to any real risk. If need be, you can just punt, and nobody’s any the wiser.
But if the grass is there, you can take it. Schrage needed five yards and got 15, and Buffalo’s punt return unit wasn’t close to tackling him shy of the marker. That’s clever.