When former Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson roamed the sidelines, anything was possible. The man was a genius and nothing was off limits. He definitely had a few trick plays up his sleeves for the right moment, and he pulled off a brilliant one against the Clemson Tigers.
Back in September 2009 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, the Yellow Jackets faced quite the dilemma. They already had a 14-0 lead, so it wasn’t life or death, but a tough call needed to be made. Going for it on 4th-and-13 from Clemson’s 34-yard didn’t seem smart. Kicking a field goal was risky, too. So Johnson decided to flex his play-calling muscles.
Instead of going for it, kicking a field goal or punting it away, Georgia Tech ran a fake field goal trick play that caught Clemson napping and resulted in a touchdown.
Georgia Tech’s Fake Field Goal vs. Clemson
At first, Georgia Tech’s offense remained on the field since the ball was way out of field goal range. Suddenly, the field goal unit trotted onto the field. Clemson just stood there and waited to see what would happen.
The ball was snapped directly to kicker Scott Blair, who many thought would just pooch punt it. However, he immediately looked right and fired a strike down to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was lined up near the sideline and sprinted toward the end zone.
It took a second for the officials to make the call, but it was ruled a touchdown.
There’s an even crazier aspect to the trick play. Johnson actually told the officials “exactly what was going to happen,” according to ESPN. Upon further review, the play was ruled a violation.
The first quarter touchdown pass still stood and Georgia Tech held off a furious second half comeback by Clemson and first-year coach Dabo Swinney to win the game, 30-27, but that play is all anyone, including Johnson, could talk about after the fact.
“What we did, is we had our offense on the field. They blew the ball ready for play, so everybody was inside the numbers. Then we ran the extra point team on the field, with 10 guys, and the offense off the field. Bey-Bey Thomas has been a wing on the extra point team at times, so he just came all the way out, and split out right inside the line judge. He looked at the guy, the guy said, ‘OK, you’re on the line.’ We snapped the ball and threw it.
“The ACC after the game interpreted that as a violation. Alright, well, we’re in the league. If that’s illegal, we won’t do it anymore. But I’ve done it before and it hasn’t been a problem. I know that here is a rule about deception with substitution. My thing on that is, what are you doing when you huddle up with 40 guys on the sideline, and you run in and you snap the ball? … Clemson did exactly the same thing to us — not with the extra point team, but with substitution and left a guy over on the sideline. So in my mind, we should’ve seen the guy.”
Johnson warned the officials about the trick play prior to the Thursday night kickoff. Nobody said anything about it being illegal, so the ruling definitely came as a surprise.
At the end of the day, though, the Georgia Tech football team won the game and that play was brilliant. More NCAA and NFL teams need to try it.