FWIW, for those of you jumping on Coach Fountain for the fake punt Ole Miss pulled on us late in the game, I put that fiasco on Sam as much as Fountain. And I loves me some Sam Pittman.
But, in THAT specific situation, there’s NO WAY a Head Coach should field anything but a SAFETY defense, even to the extent of not even putting a safety back to catch a punt (if they kick the ball). The ONLY things that can hurt you in that scenario is (a) them faking the kick and converting (which is what they did), or (b) muffing the punt and them recovering. You DON’T care about a return.
So, regardless of what Fountain did or didn’t do when he sent the punt return team out there, Sam should have said “no way…Let Barry put a defense out there”.
I don’t mean this as “harsh” criticism…more constructive. When you get a “first time” (essentially) Head Coach, you’re going to have a few instances like this. But the positives way, way overwhelm the handful of “why did he do that?” moments. Plus, I’m certain that these type of things will only surface once, and then be “fixed” going forward.
I concur with others: Sam should have read the scenario and over-ruled, leaving the defense on the field. Maybe, even, having no one back to return the ball.
That said, my guess is we saw something on film we hoped to exploit - we were in double PR mode on every punt formation. We saw something and just didn’t get a kick to put the plan into action.
We tend to notice the obvious, and miss some of the “other.” For example, anyone notice that Mataio Soli is on coverage units? He was a gunner on one kickoff, and then moved inside on a later kick. They are using him as a wedge buster? On punt returns, we had Trey Knox as an inside gunner blocker (they would split two wide; Trey would line up opposite of the inside guy). Hmm, maybe that was Foucha?
I am not sure its anybody’s call but Sam’s. I don’t think Fountain can call punt safe or make the call to leave the defense on the field. I think the call was all Sam’s and I bet he learned a valuable lesson from it. Hopefully he leaning on Odom for advice when its needed. Sam has a bright future here if he can keep a great staff together. The was the downfall of the last two coaches. Sam’s passion and love for the Hogs is going to take him a long way.
It is always going to be the HC’s call whether to play punt safe and leave the defense on the field. The ST coach works on the schemes for punt returns and what block plays to run, but he typically does not even get to call a block try without the HC’s go ahead.
I tried to get Sam to keep the defense on the field, but I don’t think he could quite hear me from my seats in the NE corner of the upper deck-probably because of the pumped in crowd noise. I think I hurt my throat a little screaming to watch the fake.
It was a pretty big mistake, but fortunately we still won the game. It’s always nice when a new HC gets to learn from those kind of mistakes without taking a loss in the process. SP seems to be a pretty fast learner. For one thing, he seems to have learned his lesson for 2020 on switching out to a run/pass QB when you are down on the goal line.
TJ Hammond had the best shot to cut the run short, yes #41 smallish WR/RB up front on PR. Why? well we did get rid of #40 and the probs he caused on 2 special teams. Work in progress, but neither Fountain nor Briles are living up to their reps and attention brought by signing them.
Kiffin went on fourth down nine times in the game… it was such an obvious situation to see coming. I did discover one thing, screaming at the TV when they lined up to “punt” did nothing but scare my neighbors.
I heard it coming. I couldn’t watch the game live - was driving from Alabama to Indiana - thank goodness for XM radio. I was hollering at the radio “leave the defense in, don’t let them run a fake. I was “proud” of the way the defense responded after that big momentum change.