Anatomy of a Play

To know Pat McAfee is to know that, when he lined up for West Virginia's rally-starting onside-kick, actual execution was probably the last thing he was thinking about.

The colorful character relishes in keeping alive the notable quirkiness of all kickers. So any pressure normal position players felt was unknown to McAfee.

"Hey, a good time, huh? It was a lotta fun. Me and Thandi (Smith) do a little practice after practice on it," McAfee said of the drop-shot like boot.

McAfee's goals on the play were twofold. First, keep the ball in bounds. Second, ensure that it goes 10 yards and hangs enough so that it does not bounce before Smith can reach it.

"It was a little soccer there, a little soccer outside the foot," McAfee said. "I don't know if you saw the celebration afterward, a little Tiger Woods. (Pumps fist) Yeahhhh! Then I saw the flag and thought some nasty words. But it worked."

Indeed. The Mountaineers lined up in their normal kick formation, so as not to tip Louisville to the hand the Cards were about to be dealt. McAfee also tried to hide his approach speed, and tweaked the play a bit.

"That's what we had to work on," McAfee said of selling the routine-looking kickoff. "I used to do it left-footed, but that just gave it away too much. So I went to the outside of the right foot. If you watch, I slowed my approach tremendously, but they did not catch on, so it wasn't a big deal. Everything else was the same.

"Cooper did it last year, but kicked it out of bounds. I watched that tape and worked on it."

On the approach, the right side of WVU's line each picked a player to deck should the opportunity present itself. All but one of the Louisville players quickly retreated downfield.

The other, up-man and wide receiver Jimmy Riley, turned to run downfield, then saw the pooch and attempted to turn back around and get upfield. He was then, in the minds of WVU special teams coach Bill Stewart and safety Aaron Meckstroth, a blocker who could be hit.

Meckstroth lowered a legal shoulder into Riley, while Smith - who blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown against Rutgers - quickly settled under the floating football.

"Thandi always wants that thing," McAfee said. "We practice it about once a week. It's actually not that hard. It's more finesse, like a cute little drop shot, a pitching wedge, if you will. I'm just glad I did not have to make a tackle. I um, practice it all the time.nah, I'm kidding. I never practice tackling. I hope a little athleticism will kick in."

It did here. The recovery brought the crowd, and WVU's morgue-like sideline, back to life. West Virginia, once down 24-7, was now within 10 points and had possession of the ball with more than eight minutes left. After the Mountaineers tied the game with one minute remaining, frustrated Louisville linebacker Preston Smith searched for McAfee on the ensuing kickoff.

"I don't know if you guys saw it, but I got a little roughed up after that," McAfee said. "No. 6 came after me on that last kickoff after the trick. I was saying a bunch of stuff. He's a lot bigger than me. I probably should have just took it and layed down. But I was saying stuff. I didn't wanna be a little girl. So I hit him and ran off the field. No, actually the refs came over and separated us."

McAfee, who had already made his only field goal try, hit all six of his point-afters, including a close on in the second overtime that barely hooked inside the right upright.

"I was just making sure everyone knew how big the uprights were, you know?," McAfee said. "As soon as I kicked it, I could feel that it was gonna be close. I was nervous, I won't lie. George (Shehl, the holder) looked at me and said 'Pat, that was close, but it went through, so don't even think about it.'

"I said 'OK!' (Dan) Mozes gave me this look after I did it like his heart just skipped a beat. I was jogging off with him and he said 'If you missed that, I probably would have killed you, you know that.'

"I said 'Yeah, I know. Don't worry about it.' He would have, too. He's a pretty big guy."

Said Mozes: "I was blocking, and I saw it sail past. But he made it. Man, we go to all these meetings and we come back by, and see the kickers sitting there playing air hockey and stuff. We harass them, but he is quality. He has great confidence and makes those clutch plays and kicks. He has that good boot on him."

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