Alabama tried to sneak a fake field goal past Clemson while trailing by 15 points in the third quarter on Monday night, calling on third-string quarterback Mac Jones to run six yards for the first down inside the Tigers' 20-yard line. But Jones fell woefully short of the first-down line, ceding possession to the Tigers.
A fake field goal isn't always a poor decision, but this play was a notable blunder from head coach Nick Saban. Why was the fake such a gaffe? There are four key reasons.
1. Everyone knows Alabama can't kick
Alabama is a well-oiled machine in two of the three phases of football, dominating opponents on offense and defense throughout 2018. But the Crimson Tide isn't known for its prowess in the kicking game. They've missed nine extra points in 2018, most in the FBS. Kicker Joseph Bulovas also missed four field goals in 2018, making any field goal try far from a guarantee.
2. A field goal would have still kept Alabama down 12
There wasn't much incentive for the Crimson Tide to kick a field goal based on the scoreboard. Alabama trailed 31–16, two touchdowns and a successful two-point conversion behind the Tigers. A field goal would have brought the Crimson Tide to ... two touchdowns behind. The lack of logic behind a field-goal attempt kept Clemson on its toes, letting the Tigers align in a defensive formation even as Alabama lined up for the kick.
3. The kicker tried to block DT Christian Wilkins
Let's examine the tape. Kicker Joseph Bulovas stands at 6'0", 206 pounds. Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins is 6'4", 315 pounds. Is there any chance a 200-pound kicker can pave the way past one of college football's top interior lineman? Clearly Bulovas was overmatched.
4. Alabama relied on its third-string QB to pick up six yards on the ground
In one of the most critical plays of the season, the Crimson Tide didn't rely on Tua Tagovailoa (who has spent time as the team’s holder) or running back Josh Jacobs but rather on third-string quarterback Mac Jones. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 123 yards and ran for negative-six yards in his career. Not exactly who you want to carry the ball on one of the season's most important plays.