Looking Back at Big Game 2008: The Failed PAT Revisited

If you missed the first part of this analysis, you can read it here.

Also, we've started again with that posting.  Check it:  Interview with Gary Tyrrell, Women's B-Ball PrimerBeastmode. Top25.  Eating The Enemy.

 

Addendum added at the bottom of the post (Again)

You're probably thinking: another post on The Failed PAT Conspiracy? 

Yes, another post.  You see, after making my first post, I felt rather unsatisfied with myself.  I felt unsatisfied because I still was wondering what the heck happened on that play.  I like to think I am a some-what knowledgeable football fan.  Sure, I don't know a lot - I mostly just know the basics and use colorful photoshopped pictures to stun and dazzle the readers (TwistNHook Note:  I like shiny photos). 

But I like to think that I know enough to figure most things out.  I am, after all, not an idiot (although most idiots rarely realize they are).  I've been known to throw out a few "stupid arguments" here and there, but I did graduate from Cal (some may doubt this considering my posts are full of bad grammar, run-on sentences and repetitive wording but that's mostly because I don't have lots of time to proof read my posts and I want to keep my blogging efforts more of a hobby than a chore), and I am in some sort of post-undergraduate education program (culinary school! wooo!!!).  So I like to think I have slightly more brains than Dub-ya and can figure things out.

But after writing the first post on The Failed PAT Conspiracy, I was unsatisfied because I felt like I hadn't figured things out.

Originally, I had concluded that nothing in the film really convinced me that Longshore had gone rogue and called a fake-PAT play. 

In the words of our Beloved Great Uncle Leader Friend TwistNHook, whom I share the same sentiment:

There is certainly a chance that Nate Longshore decided to call a fake all by his lonesome. And either told nobody or told everybody and they all rolled their eyes and ignored him. But we just don’t have a lot of evidence to prove this besides something said in some place that nobody can read. And we seem to have a lot of evidence that points in the other direction.

Those who have claimed that Longshore did this all by his lonesome are, essentially, the prosecutors and have the burden of proof. They are not even close to fulfilling that burden of proof. My mind is open to the fact that maybe Longshore did do it. But what evidence is there?

The only evidence that Longshore did go rogue and call a fake-PAT was a rumor, and the mere fact that he bailed out despite getting the ball down on time.  However, that's not enough.  As TwistNHook said in his wonderful legalese, the rumor believers are like prosecutors and they haven't met their burden of proof.  They hadn't even met the lowest burden of proof - which TwistNHook tells me is a mere preponderance of the evidence (dontcha love having a lawyer around to tell you these cool little things?). (TwistNHook Note:  What does the word preponderance mean?)

Stacked against this rumor was (in summary) the fact that the TEs didn't go out, the fact that the ball placement was slightly off, and the belief that going rogue is very unlike Longshore.

In the end, I wasn't convinced by what I saw on film that Longshore had gone rogue, but nor was I convinced that he absolutely didn't 100% go rogue.  I was caught in-between, but more towards the side where I didn't think Longshore went rogue.

However, three things still bothered me about the play:

(1) The fact that Longshore pulled the ball at all despite his inaccurate ball placement.  While Longshore's ball placement on the hold was off, most holders won't bail out and will just let the kicker kick it in the hopes that the placement isn't so off that the kick will still be good.  Additionally, the holder will still just let the kicker kick it because there is a greater chance of the kick being good despite a bad hold than bailing out since none of the eligible receivers will have gone out for a pass and thus there is high probability of failure.

(2) The fact that Longshore pulled the ball early and seemed as if he knew what he was doing.  As I said in my previous blog entry, Longshore got the ball down on time and he pulled it early.  It's one thing to get the ball down late then pull it because the kicker stopped his approach due to the bad hold, but pulling the ball despite getting the ball down on time?  Puzzling. 

(3) The fact that Longshore rolled left, and seemed as if he knew he wanted to go that way all along.  When there is a bad hold, this is what usually happens.  First the holder tries to get the ball down anyways but does so late.  This causes the kicker to stutter step or stop his approach.  Then either the kicker tries to kick the ball anyways, or the holder panics, gets up, and starts running.  Which way does the holder usually run?  Well, presumably either backwards or in the direction of their handedness.  Meaning if the player is right handed, they'll run right.  In this instance, Longshore, being right handed, ran left.  Interesting...

So these few things, although not really enough to convince me that Longshore went rogue, did have me wondering what was going on. 

Once again, I looked to the tapes, and this time I found something which I hadn't seen before...

When I first analyzed the play, I merely watched the failed PAT play.

But as I spent the rest of Wednesday going over the play in my mind (which I had watched on Tivo about 30 times), it suddenly hit me. 

Let's just assume that Longshore did go rogue and called some sort of fake-PAT.  What was he trying to accomplish? 

I kept asking myself, what he trying to accomplish?  (besides scoring)

The thing is, if Longshore was trying to fake the PAT to score, he must have seen something in the Stanfurd defense such as a weakness...

or a tendency

You don't just call a fake-PAT for kicks and giggles unless you actually see a tendency you can exploit.  Knowing that I was now looking for a tendency I knew I had to look to the film and previous PAT attempts. 

I was about to leave my house to go study at the library, but I figured I had a moment to watch some film.  It would only take a minute.  So I began settling myself on my sofa to watch other PAT attempts when the answer came to me. 

Before I had even watched anything, I knew what tendency Longshore and/or the coaches saw.  I knew what they were trying to take advantage of.  It all made sense now.

Of all the things that I felt was indicative of Longshore faking the PAT was the fact that Longshore rolled out left.  I suppose it's a seemingly odd to conclude that the direction of Longshore's rolling out was the most convincing piece of evidence  for a fake-PAT, but it makes sense.  In football, everything is planned out.  Everything from when dinner is served, to when you board buses, to the footwork of QBs and to the direction you run.

It's odd that Longshore would roll left when he's right handed.  It's easier for right handed QBs to run right so they don't have to throw across their bodies.  So why did he roll left?

Because Tavecchio is a left-footed kicker!!!

Why does it matter that Tavecchio is a left-footed kicker? 

Because the defense will try to block Tavecchio's kicks from the offense's left side! 

Why would the defense try to block Tavecchio's kicks from the offense's left side? 

Because they have a better angle of attack which maximizes the chances of blocking the kick and minimizing the chances of roughing the kicker. 

So, uh, why would Longshore roll left then?

Because the defense is going to be more aggressively trying to block the kick on the left side of the line rather than the right! 

Why does that matter?

Because those defenders on the offense's left would be out of position to stop a QB rollout!!!

There's the answer.  Here's the pictures which back it up.

Pats1_medium

Here is the PAT on Cal's second touchdown.  The key defender to watch is the left most Stanfurd defender.  Notice his alignment directly over the hash marks.

 

Pats2_medium

The defender takes a path (red arrow) right outside the shoulder of the Cal blockers in an attempt to block the kick.  I've put an big yellow arrow over the defender. There are actually two defenders under the arrow, but the specific defender I'm talking about is the bottom one.

 

Pats3_medium

This pictures shows the defender's path.  Notice he's crossing in front of Longshore and the kicker to attempt to block the kick.  This leaves the majority of the left side of the field open for a bootleg save for one lone Stanfurd defender.

 

Pats4_medium

Here's the third Cal PAT attempt.  Again notice the defender's alignment over the hash marks.

 

Pats5_medium

Again, he takes his usual aggressive path to block the PAT.  Again, this leaves the majority of the left side of the of the field open for exploitation.

 

Pats6_medium

As you can see, the defender's path takes him across the middle of the field to the other side of the field leaving the left flat only covered by one lone defender.

 

Pats7_medium

Here is Cal's 3rd PAT attempt, and the supposed fake-PAT.  Note the alignment of the defender.  This time he has aligned himself more inside than outside.  This is not what Longshore was expecting.  The fact that the defender has aligned himself more inside gives away his intent to not try and block the kick - afterall, the game is 30-3 and the effort spent blocking a PAT isn't very rewarding in a blowout.

 

Pats8_medium

The defender's laziness and lack of desire to attempt the block the kick is going to work to his advantage.  Instead of going across the face of Longshore and Tavecchio, he merely pushes forward upfield.

 

Pats9_medium

Longshore, expecting the defender to aggressively block the kick, rolls out backwards to his left.  Unfortunately for Longshore, the defender's laziness has paid off and the defender is in prime position to thwart the rollout/keeper. (TwistNHook Note:  I look forward to the day when my laziness pays off like this!)


Pats10_medium

Longshore has no chance and the supposed fake-PAT is thwarted. 

 

The theory behind this type of play is common.  Just look at LSU executing a fake field goal attempt:

 

This play worked because the defenders on the opposite side of the kicker (the defenders on the right side of the offense) aggressively come in to block the kick and take themselves out of position to stop the run to their side of the field.

 

Final Thoughts:

I still find it hard to believe that Longshore did this on his own accord.  Certainly, I don't know the guy as in he's a close friend, but I think I know him just a little more than the casual Cal fan.  I find it hard to believe he'd do something like this just for fun when he knows Tedford wouldn't like it and Tedford would ream Longshore (assuming Tedford didn't want Longshore to fake the PAT).

So perhaps Longshore was under orders from Alamar without Tedford's knowledge?  Maybe.  I don't know.  Perhaps Tedford really was going for a fake-PAT?  Maybe.  In a game where Cal ran a hook-and-ladder, and in previous games run other trick plays (flea flicker), it seems as if Tedford is trying to bring back some of the fun and trickiness to the Cal program.

Rocksanddirt says that Tedford had a "crap that was ugly" face rather than an "OMG YOU IDIOT" look on his face on TV after the play, so perhaps Tedford really was going for a fake (I re-watched the game and was unable to find this clip though).

It is still unclear as to why no receivers went out.  It's possible the fake involved just Longshore and he was supposed to bootleg and keep the ball himself.  But in most instances, when a team fakes a PAT or field goal it involves some sort of pass as in the video below.

 

In this video, the QB rolls out to his backside just as Longshore does.  Unlike the Cal play, they actually had a receiver who went out.  Perhaps Cal's receivers didn't hear the playcall.  Perhaps Longshore was just goofing around when/if Longshore did tell them to go out and they rolled their eyes and didn't listen to him.  I don't know.

But I think what is clear after watching previous PAT attempts (or at least in my unprofessional amateur opinion), is that Longshore was trying to take advantage of the defense.  Feel free to disagree with me though.  Whether Longshore was under orders to do so is still unknown.  I am of the opinion that he did so with the orders of the coaches as did not go rogue.

I still feel uncomfortable about my conclusion - not for lack of evidence, but more so because I can't confirm my thoughts and because I'm parting company with some of my fellow Cal bloggers from other blogs whom I respect and value their opinions.  Nevertheless, in light of the new evidence which I've discovered, I stand by my conclusion despite reaching a contrary conclusion only yesterday.

 

Addendum:

If you can't already tell, this entire situation has really perplexed me.  On Wednesday I went from "this isn't a fake," to today thinking "this looks to be a fake." 

Once again, in true HydroTech fashion, I find myself questioning my latest conclusion.  I find myself turning towards the other side of the field. 

While the new findings certainly show that Longshore's rollout left appears to be in response to the aggressive pressure from the offense's left.  SoCal Oski pointed this out:

I have no doubt but that is the automatic response drilled into him for the eject sequence when something is amiss with the kick.

This is something I had thought about last night but I dismissed it - and I think I dismissed it too quickly.  My first line of thought was that it was possible that it was automatic response, but I still didn't like the fact how Longshore did get the ball down on time yet bailed out.  So the fact that Longshore bailed out despite an on-time ball spot (however off-target the ball placement was), convinced me that it couldn't be an automatic response.

However, now I find this automatic response theory more and more plausible.  It would certainly explain why the rest of the offense looked so confused as to what was happening.  It would still be congruent with the fact that none of the receivers went out.  Furthermore, this automatic response theory is more congruent with my gut feeling that Tedford wouldn't call a fake-PAT attempt, and this just doesn't seem like something which Longshore would do unless he was told to. 

So where does this leave me.  This leaves me back at my original conclusion that this wasn't a fake-PAT.  When, to me at least, the evidence is stacked fairly equally on both sides, I have to go with my gut feeling.  My gut feeling tells me this isn't something Tedford would call.  My gut feeling is that Longshore wouldn't do something like this unless he was being told to do so. 

I apologize for taking a 24-hour flip-flop, but I do now feel more comfortable with my new (and original) conclusion.  I think this play was not a fake-PAT and Longshore's rollout, however designed it may have looked in order to take advantage of an aggressive defense, was mere automatic response to an inside ball-snap and off-target ball placement.

 

A note regarding the heated words coming from OaktownBear to (mostly) me:

Well, I think it's rather unfortunate how this situation has gotten a little out of hand.  I do realize that my brief paragraph (in my previous post) saying these rumors weren't as credible because they originated from BearInsider might get interpreted as me saying WifeIsAFurd is a Longshore-hater who was behind the rumor.  However, I wasn't saying WifeIsAFurd was a Longshore hater.  Never did I do so.  It was quite clear from WIAF's other posts that he was merely restating what he had read somewhere else.  So I think OaktownBear saying that I am saying that WIAF (as he is so commonly abbreviated on the BearInsider boards and chat) is a Longshore-hater is just plain wrong and asserting something I haven't asserted. 

As for my plethora of "dumb arguments," "stupid arguments," and me being "obsessed with defending everything [Longshore] does even to the extent of making illogical arguments about just about every interception being the other guy's fault or arguing that somehow he was not drastically outplayed in the AF Bowl," I guess OaktownBear and I are just going to have to differ in opinion. I do pride myself on being unbiased.  I spent many hours last season questioning my conclusions regarding Longshore's play.  I rewatched games, and still came to the conclusions I reached last year.  Stats lie, emotions and memories lie, but the film doesn't.  In my opinion, Longshore wasn't as bad as most people thought and wasn't at fault for many of his late-season INTs.  I realize I am not in the majority of those who think that, and merely am in the company of Tedford and the rest of the 2007 offensive coaching staff, but that's what I truly believe as someone who has a relatively decent understanding of football although perhaps not as much as OaktownBear.

In the future, I hope that from now on there can be more of a peaceful correspondence between me and OaktownBear.  I wouldn't mind hearing his thoughts on how my arguments are "dumb" and "stupid."  I'm always looking to better myself and if that means hearing what I'm doing wrong, then I'm all ears.  Furthermore, if he thinks that the level of play between Longshore and Riley in the Armed Forces Bowl last year wasn't about the same or at least Longshore didn't play as well as Riley, I'd love to hear his reasons why too. 

So OaktownBear, if you're reading, feel free to join the blog and post your thoughts as a fanpost or as a comment on this post, or if you wish to contact me in a more private manner, you can do so at the email address at the bottom of the blog.

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