North Texas sophomore Keegan Brewer pulled one of the ballsiest stunts in all of college football on Saturday; naturally, it took about three days for the NCAA to try to outlaw it forever.
With seven minutes remaining in the first quarter and the Mean Green up 7-0, Arkansas punted the ball to Brewer; it was a fine punt, though a little low, sending Brewer to his own 10-yard line. The enclosing Razorbacks slowed their pace as Brewer stood still, mind-tricking his opponents into believing he had called for a fair catch. Suddenly, Brewer took off, speeding up the left sideline; for the next 90 yards, not a single Arkansas special teams player came within five yards of him as he waltzed into the end zone and contributed a score to what would end up being a a 44-17 upset at Razorback Stadium.
Brewer’s nonchalant attitude as the defender bore down on him is what sold the whole play, as everyone—the announcers, the Razorbacks, the fans, probably you, definitely me—thought he had signaled for a fair catch. If you look closely, you can see Brewer kind of wave his left hand to the side when Arkansas gets about 10 yards from him, not nearly the full motion, but maybe enough to make the players think twice.
The play was a risk for Brewer, leaving him wholly unshielded if anyone on the coverage team sniffed out the ruse and decided to plow into him at full speed. As such, the play was meticulously planned by the Mean Green special teams in the week before of the game. Brewer even pointed out, when SB Nation interviewed him, that Arkansas’ Grant Morgan (No. 31 in the above video) was within a yard of him and asked him, “Why aren’t they blowing the whistle?”
Allow me to state the obvious: This is a fun play! Watching it happen, hearing the announcers move on to some random filler of a talking point before they started shouting with everyone else, was intensely entertaining and adds to the many reasons why college football remains a unique and engaging entity, surrounding ugliness be damned. It’s also one that teams across the nation will be on the lookout for in the coming weeks, before they all forget and somebody else pulls it.
But if some members of the NCAA football rules committee get their way, nobody else will ever have the chance to try it. ESPN’s Tommy Craft reported Monday evening that the committee is currently considering a ban on such trick plays. The stated reason, as of now, is that the trickery constitutes an “unfair act,” which is defined in the NCAA handbook of a million pointless rules as such:
Unfair Acts, Article 3
C: An obviously unfair act not specifically covered by the rules occurs during the game
PENALTY— Unsportsmanlike conduct. The referee may take any action he considers equitable, which includes directing that the down be repeated, including assessing a 15-yard penalty, awarding a score, or suspending or forfeiting the game.
I expect a great many Arkansas fans were pissed off that they got clowned on their home turf a week after losing to Colorado State, and maybe one of those fans also happened to be a coach or booster with some strings to tug on in the NCAA; that, or the NCAA committee is being a massive weenie. Both are plausibly lame explanations that fit the history of these two butt-hurt parties. If Brewer’s trick play is to be the last we’ll ever see of its kind, at least it was a beauty.