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The fake punt that won the game

[ 7 ] October 23, 2010 |
The Heartland Trophy

The Heartland Trophy

Wisconsin was able to claim the big metal bull because Badger coach Bret Bielema was able to perpetrate a little bull of his own.

On 4th down-and-4 on its own 26-yard-line with about six minutes left to play, Wisconsin elected to try a fake punt. Punter Brad Nortman took the snap, acted like he was going to kick it, and then took off upfield.

“We ran it all week, but you can’t really simulate the game,” Nortman said. “My heart was beating, and it ended up going exactly how coach planned it.”

There was not an Iowa defender in sight, and Nortman ran for 17 yards before falling to the turf. Wisconsin continued the drive, scoring the game-winning touchdown with 1:06 left.

“It was a good call by them,” Iowa safety Brett Greenwood said. “They converted the fourth down and we had to go back out there. We needed to stop them and we weren’t able to.”

Wisconsin runs a unique punt formation with three players split side on either side of the center, and three players back protecting the punter.

“With that scheme we run from a punt standpoint, certain teams are going to defend it differently,” Bielema said. “We had seen that they had gone with, basically, the two edge pressures and were covering down. We just made the call.

“Once we saw the personnel come on the field it was game on.”

Bielema said he left the decision on the field to reserve offensive guard Ryan Groy, an upback on the punt team.

“He’s a good Middletown kid with a good GPA; we trusted him,” Bielema said.

Groy made the call, green-lighting a play known as “chains.”

“I was excited, I was nervous, I was all of the above,” said Nortman, who had never run a fake punt before. “I started out my mold, so they kind of buy that I’m punting, then I just put my head down and run behind Ryan Groy.

“I saw all white and green, and just took off.”

Iowa punt returner Colin Sandeman said he felt something was up when the Badger punt team took the field.

“They are down by six, there’s four minutes left,” Sandeman said. “If they punt it, we string together a couple of first downs, the game is over.

“I had a feeling something was going to happen.”

Sandeman said Iowa worked on a punt block and punt return during the week, but not the fake. “I don’t think they’ve faked this year,” Sandeman said.

The Iowa junior said the Hawkeyes run a regular defense set with no back when they expect the fake, but it wasn’t called. “Hindsight is 20/20,” he said.

On the Badger sidelines, running back John Clay didn’t even know the fake had been called. “I thought he was really going to punt it,” he said.

If the fake punt had been the only special teams setback for the Hawkeyes, they might have still come out with the win.

But on Iowa’s first touchdown in the first quarter freshman kicker Mike Meyer had his extra point blocked by J.J. Watt.

“I’ve always told our defensive players – the truest test of what a defense is all about is how they play PAT,” Bielema said. “Anytime you’re on the field in a PAT situation, it means you were just scored upon, and how are you going to react. And the reaction there was unbelievable. Ended up being the difference in the game.”

In the second quarter, Iowa lined up for a 31-yard field goal, but the snap was high, and holder Ryan Donahue had to fall on the ball.

In the third quarter, Iowa had went ahead 20-17, when the freshman Don Shumpert was whistled for being offsides on the kickoff.

Instead of Wisconsin starting their drive inside the 20, the Badgers forced Iowa to kick again, and David Gilreath had a 37-year return. Wisconsin started at the Iowa 49 and one minute later scored a touchdown.

“When they were offisdes and we went back, Rudy (Joe Rudolph) changed the call, we went with a middle blast, ended up getting some momentum,” Bielema said.

In game decided by one point, the special teams mistakes by Iowa and the big plays by Wisconsin tipped the scales.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Ryan Suchomel: Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or rsuchomel@press-citizen.com. View author profile.

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