The Third Phase: F is for Fake Punt

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Ahh yes, it’s time for another edition of the Third Phase: America’s Column about Punting. We have a lot to talk about this week, much of it focused on fake punts.

That Pitt Fourth Down Fake

There were quite a few fake punt storylines that happened last weekend. However, none infuriated me more than what happened between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh.

If you’re curious about what happened, you can take a look at this clip:

Long story short, Pitt brought out its “punt team” on fourth down late in the game. They went for a fake punt. Pitt didn’t convert the fourth down. Notre Dame got the ball.

What makes this all the more amazing is that Notre Dame expected Pitt to go for it on fourth down. Notre Dame expected them to go for it.

Of course, the bigger problem is that it wasn’t the punter who was on the field for the fourth down play. Nope, it was none other than former Illinois quarterback Jeff George Jr. According to the roster info, George wears the #3 as his father did all those years ago (I feel old now).

What number was George wearing last Saturday though? He wore #96. That number typically belongs to Chris Maloney (according to the roster on the Pitt website). However, there was no #96 on the roster for this Notre Dame game.

So what Pitt would have you believe is that they have a #96 who is a TOTALLY REAL PUNTER WHO IS GOING TO PUNT THE BALL AND NOT TRY TO GO FOR IT.

Reportedly, they’ve practiced this before.

It’s one thing if you’re trying this halfway through the first quarter. However, to do this with the game on the line seems like a terrible idea. Did I mention that Notre Dame knew what was coming?

This might be one of the worst ideas that I’ve ever seen. I don’t care if it would’ve worked. It’s a poorly-executed trojan horse. You might as well light the horse on fire. This is just like that story about that fish shop that glued googly eyes to the fish to make them look fresher than they really were. There is just so much deception involved with this.

To recap, Pitt doesn’t trust its punter to do his job and punt or even execute a fake punt play. They don’t trust the starting quarterback and offense to pick up the first down (which I realize the offense struggled, BUT STILL). They could’ve had the best possible play to run on that fourth down. Instead, they opted to disguise a third-string quarterback as punter and it burned them.

Did it cost them the game? Probably not because they did have one more chance. But it’s definitely towards the top of the list of reasons.

Please re-think this play.

Another Wishnowsky Fake Punt

It’s another Third Phase column and that means we’re probably talking about Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky. Of course, we love talking about him. He brings joy and fun to college football.

He created some more fun late in last Friday’s game against Arizona.

Yes, that is Mr. Wishnowsky picking up a first down on a fake punt. He picked up 28 yards on the run. In fact, there was a horse collar penalty on Arizona, which netted the Utes additional yardage. Utah scored one play later.

Of course, there was talk about whether Utah should’ve run a fake punt play with such a big lead over Arizona at that point. It has been mentioned before and it will be mentioned again.

The full context of what Whittingham said can be found here. It is amazing to see how much trust there is for Wishnowsky on fourth downs. I’m not sure how many coaches would trust their punters in that situation.

That said, it doesn’t seem like Arizona took it all that personal, based on one report.

With Wishnowsky’s 28-yard run, he now has 39 yards of rushing on the season. It is a career-high for him.

Gator Running

Of course, Wishnowsky wasn’t the only punter last weekend to show off his legs for running. Florida punter Tommy Townsend joined in on the fun against Vanderbilt.

Townsend picked up 18-yards on this play before running into a wall of Vandy player. His forward progress obviously enough to pick up the first down. Of course, after the play got a little tense. But it’s not like things got out of control or anything.

Townsend punted twice against Vanderbilt. He had one punt that went 50+ and one that inside the 20.

A Lot of Punting

Jack Fox did quite a bit of punting for the Rice Owls last weekend against UAB. How much, you might be asking? He punted the ball 12 times. Six of his punts went for 50 or more yards, including a 70-yarder. He had two land inside the 20. Fox averaged 49 yards per punt in the game.

Because of his 12 punts, Fox is now third in the nation in punts with 44.

Awards

There is one obvious choice for us about who the Third Phase Punter of the Week is. We gotta go with Wishnowsky again. And I’m not talking about his impressive run for a first down against Arizona. As good as that was, his punting effort was even better.

Wishnowsky punted the ball four times against Arizona. Three of them went inside the 20, including one inside the 20. Additionally, Wishnowsky booted two punts that went 50-or more yards. One punt of 55-yards went the farthest for him.

Meanwhile, the Ray Guy Punter of the Week honor goes to Joseph Charlton of South Carolina. Charlton had six punts in the game, including three placed in the 20.