Kirby Smart: Georgia football ‘had a guy wide open’ on failed fake punt

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Georgia football coach Kirby Smart defended his call on the fake punt.

ATLANTA — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart says the Bulldogs have been working on that fateful fake punt he called for at midfield with 3:04 since last season.

Georgia may have been better off if the play was still hidden away, deep in the playbook instead of trying it during the 35-28 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

The fake punt failed miserably, with freshman quarterback Justin Fields resigned to scramble for 2 yards after he was unable to find an open receiver on fourth-and-11 in a 28-28 game, resulting in a turnover on downs. But Smart defended the decision after the game.

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“Thought it was there, and it was there today,” Smart said when asked about the fake punt. “We were going to snap the ball quick. We took too long to snap the ball. They didn’t have a guy covered. We had a guy wide open.”

Fields playing time has been limited, and he doesn’t ordinarily play upback on the punt team, so the  gamble was that Alabama wouldn’t notice it in time.

Apparently, Fields took too long to get the snap off.

“We took so long to snap it, that they recognized it and got the guy covered late. It was probably 20, 30 yards’ field position that — we came to win the game. We wanted to win the game.”

After the failed trick play, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, who like Fields started the game on the bench, took over and drove the Tide 52 yards on five plays and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 15-yard scramble with 1:04 left.

Georgia outplayed Alabama for much of the game, out-gaining the Tide 454-403, forcing two turnovers while not committing any, and owning the edge in time of possession 35:30 to 24:30.

However, the Bulldogs were miserable on special teams. Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missing a 30-yard field goal that would have put Georgia up 31-14 in the third quarter. Georgia also missed two opportunities to down punts inside the 5-yard line with inadequate execution from the punt coverage team, which also allowed a 36-yard punt return.

The failed fake punt was just one more special teams breakdown, even after Smart said the Bulldogs came into the game confident it would work.

“I talked to the guys before the game about it; if we get an opportunity to run it, we’ll run it,” Smart said. “It was there. We just didn’t get an opportunity to get it snapped before they covered the guy.”

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