Cougs' fake punt: right call, wrong ball carrier

I KNOW I'M GOING to catch hell for this, but I actually wasn't all that disappointed with the third quarter fake punt that went awry for the Cougars at Cal on Saturday, and ultimately cost Washington State the victory. I was just mad the play didn't work and wished it would have been run slightly differently.

If it works and WSU goes up 15 there, Cal is on the mega-ropes and probably never gets off them.

The WSU offense bounced right back after Cal scored on the fumble return. And by scoring that touchdown -- a 4-yard Luke Falk to Gabe Marks pass that capped a nine-play drive -- the Cougs took the game by the throat again.

If Erik Powell could have converted his 40-yard field goal attempt after the Cougar D came up with its second turnover of the game, the pressure goes all on Cal again. Still, the Cougar defense stopped a two-point conversion later on and forced Cal to take its own risk -- an onside kick -- with a fortunate bounce. Cal took that risk because they were having major issues with Falk & Co. But they got the bounce.

BUT BACK TO THE COUGARS' FAKE PUNT WITH Zach Charme. I loved The initial setup, but was disappointed with the way it was run. The offense stayed out on the field, waiting to do a last-second shift change to get Cal moving around and uncertain. This was quite well thought out. However, on the fake itself, it would probably have been better to have an up-back get that ball and charge ahead, because there was a lot of space. As it was, the play took way too long to develop and you're sending a true freshman punter into the teeth of the defense.

That's what was most disappointing to me -- not the call itself but that the wrong player had the ball in his hands. The momentum of the play went to Cal, but it could have just as easily put WSU in the driver's seat for a huge win. Instead, Stefan McClure took the ensuring fumble to the house and the Cougar lead was cut to 21-20.

I can't blame Cougar fans for being angry with this one, but to me it was a game full of risky calls and Leach came out ahead in the over/under in that department offensively. Hindsight being what it is, the defense probably could have won the football game today if the Cougs had just punted rather than gone for the fake. The play gave Cal more life than it should have had.

But with what we saw last season after a halftime lead, it's hard to blame Leach for trying to set his team up with all the momentum. It was no different than Dykes' onside kick. Unfortunately, Dykes came out a genius today and Leach the goat, but again it could have just as easily gone the other way.

For the most part, the play calling on both sides was absolutely gorgeous and the game came down to inches elsewhere.

I still have no idea how the Cougars didn't come up with the Kache Palcio-generated Goff fumble that rolled to the Cal 5. And I have no idea how the subsequent third-and-36 run by Cal wasn't stopped (though on the whole I believe the defense played with a ton of guts all afternoon). I also have no idea how Dom Williams doesn't stay in bounds on his long catch, or how Gabe Marks loses the ball at the Cal 20 or how Goff dances away from three crucial sack opportunities to complete daggers for first downs in the waning moments of the game.

It just happened that way. But the Cougs and Leach were up to the challenge and had their shot in a game where few -- as evidenced by the 17-point spread -- gave them one.

Bottom line, the Cougs literally were a bounce or two from a win and I thought Leach & Co. seriously out-coached the No. 24 team in the country. The Ducks are in for a war.


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