Key Figures Thought Fake Field Goal Was Right Call

by - Correspondent -
Clemson kicker Jad Dean is brought down on the fake field goal.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Tommy Bowden thought the time was right. The two main cogs thought they read it right. Even the opposing coach was caught off guard.

"It," of course, was Clemson's ill-fated fake field goal Saturday afternoon that set up the Demon Deacons' game-winning drive in their 31-27 win over the Tigers. The call, a late-game gamble by the coaching staff, has generated the expected discussion and second-guessing in the hours following the defeat.

But was it a gamble worth taking?

Those in orange and white believe it was.

"It looked like what we had been seeing on film, so we decided to stay with it," said kicker Jad Dean. "If the ball's on the left hash, they're going to block from the right."

And Dean was correct. Wake Forest had consistently shown such a tendency on film.

Even as the Tigers lined up for the apparent 44-yard attempt, Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe had no idea what was coming.

"They've got a great kicker and I really thought Tommy would take the points," Grobe said. "To be real honest with you, I thought it was a great call because nobody on my staff thought they were going to fake it."

Once the call is made from the sideline, holder Cole Chason shoulders most of the responsibility for making the read. But he and Dean both scan the defensive alignment, and with as much as a nod or a quick shake of the head either can call off the fake.

But as Chason went into his holder's stance, all appeared to be in the Tigers' favor.

"Four guys shaded on the right in the A and B gaps, where they're pushing each other. There were only two linebackers back, so it looked like it was there," Chason said. "But obviously the guys on the left, they were just hanging back. It didn't look like they were coming after the block, so they were there to contain and it didn't work."

The controversy, of course, comes not in the execution but in the call itself.

After intercepting a Cory Randolph pass and taking possession at the Wake Forest 30-yard line, Clemson had a chance to put the game away with a late touchdown. But two running plays netted only three yards, and Whitehurst threw incomplete toward Reggie Merriweather on third down.

At that point, Bowden decided to roll the dice.

"I thought that we didn't need a field goal and that we needed to score a touchdown," said Bowden. "There was a pretty good chance it would work, and we tried to make something happen to win the game. If we get a first down there, the game is over.

"I just wanted to win the game."

They didn't get the first down. Dean, taking the option pitch from Chason running left, was tackled for a seven-yard loss on the play.

Wake Forest took over at the Clemson 34 with 2:31 remaining. Eight plays and 66 yards later, Randolph found a diving Kevin Marion in the right side of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown pass.

And so the controversy began.

Clemson's once-promising 2-0 start has degenerated into a 2-3 record - 1-3 inside the ACC - and has raised serious doubts about what kind of season the Tigers can salvage with six games remaining.

But even in retrospect, it was hard for the players to second-guess the decision.

"It's a tough call. Had we gotten a first down, it's a first down and they don't get the ball back," Chason said. "If we kick a field goal we're ahead by six (and a touchdown still beats us).

"It could go either way."

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