Category Archives: The New View | Mitch Vingle

The real skinny behind WVU’s punt fake in the 2006 Sugar Bowl

The real skinny behind WVU’s punt fake in the 2006 Sugar Bowl

I forget exactly how John Antonik, WVU’s fine director of athletics content, phrased the question.

But the New Martinsville native asked via Twitter for the best WVU football play call of all time.

I didn’t have to ponder. I knew immediately.

Because the best WVU play call was also the best overall play call I’ve seen. That includes the NFL’s “Philly Special” and others.

See, the best play call I’ve seen caught everyone by surprise. And more importantly, it won a game. Specifically, the 2006 Nokia Sugar Bowl.

Yes, I’m referring to the punt fake by the Mountaineers’ Phil Brady. It sealed a 38-35 WVU victory over favored Georgia played in, basically, the Bulldog’s home, the Georgia Dome.

To refresh, here’s a quick rundown before the meat of this blog. Freshmen Pat While, Steve Slaton, Darius Reynaud and the rest of the Mountaineers shocked Georgia and the college football world by rolling to a 28-0 lead with a minute gone in the second quarter.

Yet the Bulldogs came storming back, first to within 31-21 at the half and then, as time was winding down, to within three points. WVU, though, had the ball with 5:13 left in the game and drained the clock with six straight runs to 1:45.

It was then the TV cameras pivoted to Georgia kicker Brandon Coutu. It seemed destiny was on the side of the Bulldogs as West Virginia faced a fourth-and-6 situation.

But WVU, with Rich Rodriguez as the head coach, lined up in a wide spread look with three blockers to the left of center – including fullback extraordinaire Owen Schmitt.

“I noticed this before,” said TV commentator Bob Griese. “And when West Virginia was punting, everyone was running down the field. Georgia was running with them.”

Except this time Brady took the snap, tucked the ball and ran – straight for a first down.

“And that might just sew up the Nokia Sugar Bowl for the Mountaineers!” said play-by-play man Brad Nessler.

Indeed it did.

“It’s a gutsy call by Rich Rodriguez,” said Griese.

Yet was it Rodriguez’s call? Antonik suggested via Twitter it might have been then-offensive line coach Herb Hand, now at Texas.

So I texted Hand. I’ve always wanted to know about that play. And the words came tumbling back on my phone.

“There’s a lot of mythology around that call,” Hand said. “Here is how I remember the entire sequence of events.

“After the third-down play, we let the play clock run down to :01 and we took a timeout. As the clock is winding down, I said to Rich, [Bill Stewart], Butch [Jones] and Calvin [Magee] — who are all on the headset – ‘What do you think about Hammer?’ That’s what the fake was called.”

At this point, Hand said, Rodriguez spoke up.

“Do you think it will be there?”

Stewart, who coordinated special teams, answered “it was there earlier.”

As Griese said, WVU indeed ran out of the same formation earlier in the game and the opening was there.

“So Butch Jones, who was in charge of Punt Team, says ‘Herb, go to Line 2,” Hand said.

Line 2 on the headset, he explained, was for coaches to discuss situations without a lot of background noise and chatter.

“I clicked to Line 2 quickly and Butch says ‘If it’s not there, you’ve got to get us out of it.’ I said, ‘I will.’ I then looked at Calvin, who was in the same coaching box with me, and said ‘If you don’t think it’s there, let’s get out of it.’  He answered back, ‘It’ll be there.’”

All the WVU coaches then switched back to Line 1.
“We are now all back on Line 1 and Rich says, ‘Ok. Let’s run it. Herb, if it’s there let me know; if not, we’ll kick it.’”

The Mountaineers lined up in the formation.

“It was the perfect look we wanted to run the fake against and I said ‘Hammer, Hammer!’” Hand said. “Bill Stewart signaled the call in, we snapped the ball and Phil Brady started toward the line of scrimmage.

“I said, ‘Run you sumbitch run!’ He got the first down and we moved the chains.”

It sealed the game because Georgia only had two timeouts left and but 1:34 remained.

“That’s the best I can recollect the situation,” Hand said. “Ultimately, Rich Rodriguez made the call because he was the head coach and it was an HCD (head coach decision). But the play itself was well executed by the men on the field and that’s what really matters.”

Indeed it sewed up the 2006 Nokia Sugar Bowl.

And provided some sweet memories for WVU fans.

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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.



The void that is sports and a look at what WVU is doing

The void that is sports and a look at what WVU is doing

I realize with the coronavirus pandemic ongoing, there are more important topics than sports. I texted a friend in Beckley to check on him the other day and he said he’s yet to flip on ESPN since the pandemic started. Wish I could say that. I turn on the Worldwide Leader in Sports daily, almost… Continue Reading

My plea in this new world without sports

My plea in this new world without sports

Last Monday, I wrote in this space about WVU’s basketball team. Remember? Just seven days ago, the Mountaineers were poised to take on Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. They stood at 21-10 and were a lock for the NCAA tournament. Until, that is, the coronavirus put a headlock on our… Continue Reading

WVU’s hoops standing; Noah Adams; Kenny Robinson

WVU’s hoops standing; Noah Adams; Kenny Robinson

Ye olde notebook: Let’s face it, February was the lion and March the lamb – so far — for the WVU men’s basketball team. In March, the Mountaineers have defeated Iowa State on the road and, Saturday, No. 4 Baylor at the Coliseum. Oh, and the latter was quite engaging, especially for Ohio Valley product… Continue Reading

The (sometimes tortuous) life that is a Mountaineer fan

The (sometimes tortuous) life that is a Mountaineer fan

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A WVU wrestling spark — along with a smile

A WVU wrestling spark — along with a smile

The communication from WVU brought forth a smile. Redshirt sophomore Noah Adams of the Mountaineer wrestling team finished the regular season on Sunday with a 29-0 record, even though West Virginia’s team lost to Big 12 affiliate Utah Valley at the Coliseum. Adams, you see, is a spark for WVU coach Tim Flynn. A much-needed… Continue Reading

Is WVU’s basketball team being respected — or disrespected?

Is WVU’s basketball team being respected — or disrespected?

When the national poll rankings came out today, Monday, Feb. 17, WVU fell among men’s college basketball teams to No. 17, according to the writers (A.P.), and to No. 18, according to the coaches (USA Today). A friend wrote on Twitter that shows national respect for the Mountaineers. Believe it or not, though, it really… Continue Reading

Sifting through WVU basketball stats; recruiting news

Sifting through WVU basketball stats; recruiting news

As TV character Jethro Bodine once famously said, I may not know new math, but I sure know how to cipher. (Jed Clampett in reply: “If brains was lard, Jethro couldn’t grease a pan.”) So I put pen to paper and exercised my “goes intos” regarding this WVU men’s basketball team. While the Mountaineers, now… Continue Reading

Super Bowl MVP Mahomes, WVU and lessons learned

Super Bowl MVP Mahomes, WVU and lessons learned

I love a good epiphany. And since moving to Wheelhouse Creative, the state’s most creative marketing and advertising agency, I’ve had many – about the field, about life outside sports journalism. Like one experienced in regard to businesses with good products. I’ve seen so many companies with great products or services unrecognized or misunderstood. Businesses… Continue Reading

The reason Kobe Bryant’s death hits close to home in W.Va.

The reason Kobe Bryant’s death hits close to home in W.Va.

Natives of West Virginia are well aware “Mountain State connections” always seem to be present in national sports stories. It’s true so often, in fact, many joke about the phenomenon. But on this day no one is joking about those connections. No one is smiling. In fact, Jerry West, our favorite sports son, has been… Continue Reading

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