Memory Maker

WVU's fake punt to seal the Sugar Bowl win was a masterpiece of timing, deception, execution and bravery – a call that will live a long time in Mountaineer lore.

It's exactly the kind of play call that West Virginia fans expected to see from head coach Rich Rodriguez when he came to his alma mater with a reputation for razzle-dazzle, but it was also the sort of thing that has disappeared as the Mountaineers reverted to a more conservative running attack to fit its personnel. However, just when fans, not to mention Georgia, least expected it, Rodriguez and the WVU coaching staff pulled a fast one to seal the biggest win in Mountaineer football history.

On the play, WVU lined up in a spread punt formation, but it was immediately apparent that something was different. The three linemen on the left side were lined up with much wider splits than normal – a formation that had the Georgia defense leaping around in confusion.

"That's called our split formation, which means the left side of our line is split out [wider than normal]," said punter Phil Brady. "Out of that, we can run our regular roll punt, we can kick right or kick left, and we can run the fake. We got the look we wanted, with the soft backers. Coach Hand liked it from upstairs, and Coach Rod made the call. The fake is an "alert", so if we got the look we wanted, we were going to run it."

WVU executed the play perfectly. With the center almost uncovered, Georgia put three rushers in close with the hopes of overwhelming WVU's shield in front of Brady. West Virginia's three blockers, along with snapper Tim Lindsey, had other ideas, however. They folded the Georgia rush back to WVU's right side, creating a huge gap for Brady, who sprinted for the first down that kept the Bulldog offense on the sideline in the game's waning moments.

"He's a slower Steve Slaton, but Phil Brady can run. He's an athlete," said special teams coordinator Bill Stewart. "When we saw the alignment, I thought that unless someone falls down, we are going to get it. The snap from Tim Lindsey was a bullet, and when I saw [Phil] catch it I was sure we were going to get it. I got one Hail Mary out, and then I used a few words momma wouldn't have been proud of as he was running, and then he got it."

"I knew I got far enough," Brady picked up as he described the ten yard gain that gave WVU an all-important first down that allowed them to keep possession of the ball. "It seemed like I ran for a long time. It was fun, but gosh, I got popped. I might have kept running to their sideline if I hadn't made it. I got hit on the neck pretty good, so I didn't see the end of the game."

An interesting sidelight to the play was the fact that Brady was wearing a borrowed pair of shoes from a former teammate.

"Kevin Tice was a walkon kicker earlier this year, and it didn't work out for him, but I took his shoe," said Brady. "I've been kicking with his shoe for the past six games. He wants it back."

Following the game, Brady found Tice in the stands and offered it to him on the spot, but Tice declined. Still, Brady said that he will give it back to him.

The fact that Brady, who took much heat from Mountaineer fans and pundits over his career, was one of the heroes of the game was a wonderful capper to his time at West Virginia.

"Phil Brady has taken so much from all these "experts", so it's a fitting tribute to the way he's hung in there," Stewart summed up. "He capped the decisive drive in the Sugar Bowl. What more can you say about him. I'm so happy and so proud for the way he hung in there and did everything we wanted him to do, and all the credit goes to him."


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