Trying to figure out that bizarre Georgia State play

Georgia State was beaten by Louisiana-Lafayette 23-21 on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

The loss wasted the best performance by Georgia State’s defense since coach Trent Miles took over. The group gave up 307 yards and held running back Elijah McGuire to just 73 yards.

It wasted another mostly fine performance by Georgia State’s offense. Nick Arbuckle passed for 313 yards and three touchdowns.

It was wasted because of one play. One truly bizarre play: a fake punt in which Wil Lutz threw the ball to an ineligible receiver, Tevin Jones.

Georgia State was leading 21-20 and faced fourth-and-5 on its 24-yard line. Georgia State punted, but two offsetting penalties were called, forcing the Panthers to punt again.

Before we get to what happened, let’s review was said after the game. Note: I was covering another game, so I watched this on ESPN Saturday night.

Miles told the post-game radio crew that there was no fake punt called. The Panthers were supposed to punt.

In the post-game press conference, he said he didn’t communicate well enough to Lutz and the rest of the special teams that if they see a certain look to not go for the fake punt. He said Lutz wasn’t to blame. Miles said he was to blame.

So, what happened?

On the first punt, the Panthers lined up with five guys on the line in wide splits, two on each side of the center. There were two gunners split to either side and three upbacks in front of Lutz. Lafayette lined up with six men on the five on the line, and one man on each of the gunners. They also had one man lined up where a middle linebacker would typically be. Two are back to return the punt.

At the snap, Georgia State’s blockers step to the right. Lutz also runs to the right because he is doing a rugby-style kick and he is right-footed. He looks up for a few steps before kicking the ball.

It’s not a good kick, but offsetting penalties allow Georgia State another attempt.

Now, before we get to THE PUNT, I must say that it would find it very odd that a fake punt would be included in any scenario in this situation: up by 1, in the fourth quarter, deep in your territory.

Let’s get to what happens next.

Because of the penalties, 10 of Georgia State’s punt-coverage players are near the sidelines talking to the coaches. Lutz had already left that huddle and is 15 yards away, almost in the spot where he will receive the snap. The players appeared to be talking to Tony Samuel and another coach.

The camera focuses on Lutz, who nods to someone, which may be part of his routine. The camera stays on him. Lutz nods again. Carnell Hopson, whose facemask penalty caused the offsetting penalties, walks up to Lutz and says something. Lutz nods again. This could all be normal.

Georgia State lines up in a different formation for this do-over.

This time, there are three blockers in wide splits to the left of the snapper, and three receivers (or gunners), lined up far to the right of the snapper, all crammed between the hashmark and the sideline. There are again three upbacks. Louisiana-Lafayette counters with four on the four players in the middle of the field, three on each of the gunners, and two men between the players in the middle and the players over the gunners.

At the snap, Todd Boyd, a blocker on the far left of Georgia State’s formation, runs immediately to his right behind the line of scrimmage. It looks like a screen pass is being set up.

This leads me to think this was a fake from the get-go. Lutz gets the snap and is looking to his left for Boyd, who is caught up in a scrum of players. Lutz continues running right, looking downfield the whole time, before finding Boyd and attempting the pass.

The only problem is Boyd is about 4 yards in front of the first down, and Tevin Jones is four yards in front of him. Jones catches the pass.

Lutz runs up and seems to be asking Jones why he caught the ball. Jones raises his arms.

But you can tell that everyone on Georgia State saw the same thing and was playing as if it was a fake.

Two people I spoke with after the game said they thought Georgia State was doing its typical rugby punt. I think as soon as you see Boyd running right, it’s obvious that the fake was on.

I don’t know what look Louisiana-Lafayette presented that led to the fake. I don’t know who called the fake. Based upon the sequence of events, it seems most likely that it was discussed (don’t know if it was called) during the short break between the punts.

Louisiana-Lafayette takes over and quickly takes the lead with a field goal.

The aftermath

This is a game the Panthers should have won. They needed to win four of their next five games to become bowl eligible. Now, it may happen, but it seems unlikely.

What do you think?

Was the punt the result of a look given by Louisiana-Lafayette’s defense?


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