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Nick Saban’s fake FG or Kirby Smart’s fake punt? Joey Jones, Cole Cubelic chime in on worst call

Neither had any chance of working.

Both are also considered highly publicized blunders on otherwise championship-contender quality seasons for Alabama and Georgia.

On one hand, there’s Kirby Smart’s call for a fake punt against Alabama in the SEC Championship on fourth and 11 in a tied ball game with just more than three minutes to play.

On the other, you have Nick Saban’s call for a fake field goal on fourth and 6 down 15, and his holder (a third-string quarterback) essentially running off-tackle with his kicker as a lead blocker against Clemson in the CFP national championship game.

Which was worse?

It became a topic on social media as Clemson dismantled Alabama 44-16.

Mississippi State special teams coordinator Joey Jones joined me and Lee Shirvanian this week on “The Opening Kickoff” on WNSP-FM 105.5, so, naturally, we asked him.

“The Georgia play,” said Jones, the former Alabama receiver and coach at South Alabama. “In my opinion, if Georgia punts them inside the 10, they have to drive 90 yards to beat them.

“I think Nick was trying to make something happen. At that point, they couldn’t get anything going. Sometimes, you have to take a chance and make something happen to change momentum.”

Jerry Palm of CBS Sports agreed.

“Kirby’s (fake) because it cost him the game,” Palm told me on WNSP this week.

But …

“Alabama was already done when they called their fake. Kirby’s fake was dumb, but we didn’t all know it was coming at least. Alabama lines up to kick a field goal. Everyone knows they can’t kick. Not one person thought he was going to line up and kick that ball. You can’t fake a field goal when no one expects you to kick it.”

Maybe so, but a fake that requires the holder to go off off-tackle behind his kicker?

Does Mississippi State have a fake like that?

“No,” Jones said with a laugh. “But, we hardly fake field goals. I just don’t think a field-goal formation is really a great way to fake. Fake punts give you more options. With field goal sets, it’s hard with tight formations.”

Jones was quick to point out he doesn’t know what Alabama was doing schematically on the play, yet understands the Alabama’s kicking game had been struggling.”

Cole Cubelic was a little more frank.

“The fake field goal was egregious,” the SEC Network told me on WNSP this week. “I’m not sure which was worse: that or Kirby Smart’s fake punt. Both were embarrassing.”

With that said, both Cubelic and Jones were quick to point out it is rare to question a call made by Saban.

“How many times since 2007 have we said Nick Saban has been outcoached?” Cubelic asked. “Maybe one other time?”

“I’m not questioning anything he does,” Jones said. “You look at the onside kick against Clemson (in 2016), they got that and actually won the game because of it. They don’t make it, then he’s an idiot. But, they did. That’s the way it is.

“Anytime you call a fake, you’re taking a huge risk. Sometimes, you have to roll the dice. He did it, and it just didn’t work.”

Mark Heim is a sports reporter for The Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Heim.

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