CLEMSON -- The now-infamous trick play on a field goal, plus the holding call on Thomas Austin in Thursday’s fourth quarter will forever be spoken of with derision for Clemson fans.
After speaking with ACC officials this week, Tiger head coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday his squad is ready to move past the two plays.
Georgia Tech hid wide receiver Demaryius Thomas near the boundary before a 51-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter of last Thursday’s loss in Atlanta. Kicker Scott Blair hit an uncovered Thomas for a touchdown that was a key play in the Yellow Jacket victory.
Later, with the Tigers and Jackets tied at 27, Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker hit Jacoby Ford on a 39-yard pass play that would have put the Tigers inside the Tech 20-yard line. Austin was called for a hold on the play. The Tigers eventually punted to Tech, who drove for the winning field goal.
Swinney said Tuesday he considered the Tech field goal play illegal, but he learned his team also ran a play that would be considered illegal by ACC officials. The play involved Clemson receiver Marquan Jones. He acted as though he was hurrying off the field just before his catch that set up a third quarter Clemson touchdown.
“I thought it (Tech’s play) was illegal at the time, but I couldn't get anybody to listen to me,” said Swinney. “Our play that we ran and I've talked to Doug Rhoads (ACC director of officials) about it, and his interpretation is that our play wasn't legal either. So we just won't count either one of them and we win 27-23.”
Guarding against a team running a trick play where a player fakes running off the field and then stays in the play is a “loaded question,” Swinney said.
“You try to prepare for everything the best you can,” he said. “That's part of football. There's always deception or trick plays that work or don't work. It's hard to prepare for things that aren't legal. You have to do a good job preparing for the right ones. We'll keep working on the ones that are legal plays.
“There are clear rules on substitutions and deception with subs. You know, where guys have to be when the ball is marked ready to play. That's stuff I'll leave to the officials. Again, but that's what good coaches do when you see an opportunity. Sometimes it hits and sometimes it doesn't. Maybe we could have done a better job in the box with our eyes.”
The Tigers used a similar play with Jacoby Ford in last season’s win over South Carolina. Swinney said he spoke with the SEC crew before that game and let them know something might be coming. They told him they had no problem with it, he said.
“We talked to a couple of officials and got some interpretations and I also went over it with them before the game.”Hey- this may come up during the game. Is this a problem? No sir."
Swinney followed up saying he had no problems with ACC officials, “I love all of our officials. Love them. I'm sure there is a system in place. Doug Rhoads has been very good as far as whom to communicate with. My dealings with him have been great,” he said. “He wants to have the best officiating crew in football. That's important to him. He takes a lot of pride in his job like I do in my job. I'm not saying anybody screwed up. Doug Rhoads with what he's doing- he'll hold people accountable. Things happen in life that you don't like and it's a shame. But we'll overcome.”
Swinney said that Austin, who was called for the same infraction by the same official a year ago against Georgia Tech, will have no problem getting past the holding call.
“Well, one of the things we do on our Monday meetings is we go over the penalty tape,” Swinney said. “And I encouraged him. He's a good player. They called it a hold. I'm sure there was a hold in there somewhere. Wouldn't trade him for nobody. It’s a tough situation. Very unusual to have the perfect play, two years in a row, a great throw and a great catch, to have the same call made.”