Georgia Tech

Fakegate: GT head coach Paul Johnson talks about 'illegal' fake FG

As the Yellow Jackets prepare to depart for Miami and tomorrow night's game at Land Shark Stadium, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson took the time to talk about the ruckus that has suddenly been created about his fake field goal during last Thursday's game against Clemson. He was asked about it on the weekly ACC coaches' teleconference, and here's the info from it: (Note, this same story will run in tomorrow's Telegraph)

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said Wednesday he was surprised one play in last Thursday’s Yellow Jackets win over Clemson has created some brouhaha.

Speaking to members of the media on the ACC’s weekly coaches’ teleconference, Johnson said he was surprised to learn a conference official called last Thursday’s fake field goal pass for a touchdown to Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius “Bay-Bay” Thomas illegal.

“The officials were told before the game exactly what was going to happen,” Johnson said. “I mean, if you’ve got a trick play, before the game or whatever, you tell them what’s going to happen, and I told them. If it had been illegal, they should have told us then.”

The play in question occurred in the first quarter of Georgia Tech’s 30-27 win at Bobby Dodd Stadium, during which Thomas caught a 34-yard pass from placekicker Scott Blair on fourth down. Hauling in the high, lofty pass before Clemson’s special teams players could react, Thomas sprinted down the Yellow Jackets’ sideline, stiff-arming one lone Tigers player before entering the end zone.

“Coach had told me early in the week that if I didn’t score a touchdown in this game, that I was never going to score a touchdown again,” the West Laurens alumnus said following the game. “So I had to take advantage of it. I was happy he called (the play). He knew it was going to work”

Johnson said the Yellow Jackets practiced the play all week leading up to the Clemson game, and that he has run it in games some “three or four” times during his 12-year career that has included stops at Georgia Southern and Navy.

The play came under scrutiny earlier this week, after Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney reportedly spoke to ACC officials supervisor Doug Rhoades. According to a blog post Wednesday on the Anderson Independent-Mail’s Web site, Rhoades told Swinney that both the fake and a Clemson 37-yard completion that set up a game-tying field goal were illegal plays.

“I said to (Rhoads) that we not count either one of the plays and we’d win 24-23,” according to the blog, Swinney said, jokingly. “If you have the same personnel on the field, say it’s a ‘21’ personnel. If you’re in ‘21’ personnel, and you don’t change, keep ‘21’ personnel on the field, as long as you’re within the numbers when the ball is marked for play (it’s legal). It’s not my job to count to 11 for (officials).”

Johnson broke down the play to reporters as best he could.

“What we did, because we had our offense on the field (on third down), OK. They put the ball ready for play so everybody was inside the numbers,” Johnson said. “Then we ran the extra point team on the field with 10 guys, and got the offense off the field. Bay-Bay Thomas has been a wing on the extra point team at times, so he just came all the way out, split out right in front of the line judge. He looked to the guy, the guy said, ‘OK, you’re on the line,’ they snapped the ball and threw it.”

Since the conference interpreted that as a violation, Johnson said the Yellow Jackets will learn from the experience and won’t repeat the play again.

“Alright, well, we’re in a league and if that’s (the rule) then we won’t do it anymore,” Johnson said. “But I’ve done it before and it hadn’t been a problem.”