With a chance to take a three-point lead at halftime, Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith opted against a short field goal and tried a fake. Photo Credit: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports Oct 28, 2023; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Oregon State Beavers punter Josh Green #37 passes the ball to Oregon State Beavers place kicker Atticus Sappington #36 for a fake field goal during the first half at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Those who stayed up for some late-night Pac-12 action saw one of the most baffling decisions in recent memory on the final play of the first half of Saturday night’s game between Oregon State and Arizona.

The No. 11 ranked Beavers found themselves in a tough road game against the Wildcats. But Oregon State drove deep into Arizona territory and even though the Beavers couldn’t get into the end zone, they lined up for a 34-yard field goal, which would have given them a 13-10 halftime lead. Only, they didn’t really line up for a field goal.

Holder Josh Green flipped the ball to kicker Atticus Sappington, who took off toward the end zone. Sappington made it to the seven-yard line, but was easily tackled there to end the half.

And for anyone who may be trying to find some benefit of the doubt, this was not an improvised Plan B that came after a bad snap or hold. For one, Green had no trouble handling the snap. Two, ESPN’s Lauren Sisler spoke with Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith. He confirmed that the fake field goal was the intended play, saying that it looked good before the snap, but “Arizona got off the block.”

College football fans were understandably confused by this decision.

It’s impossible to understand the logic here.

With two seconds remaining, the fake field goal only works if it results in a touchdown. If you need a touchdown, what’s the better play, leaving your offense on the field or having your kicker try to run for it? Also, the line of scrimmage was the 16-yard line. Even if you want to account for the element of surprise, you must also remember that Sappington started his run roughly where the ball was spotted. So, he effectively had eight extra yards to pick up.

Furthermore, while a touchdown is of course always better than a field goal, Oregon State didn’t need a touchdown. We could make some sense out of this if the Beavers were down big and trying to find a spark. But the game was tied. This was a chance to take the lead.

Also, it’s not as though Sappington was struggling or kicking to a tough end of the field. He was 2-for-2 on kicks to that point. That included an extra point in the first quarter and a 35-yard field goal in the second quarter. So, he’d already made a slightly longer kick going in the same direction.

This decision was not as bad as Miami coach Mario Cristobal running plays instead of going into victory formation and winning a game. Cristobal’s decision will be the worst made by a coach this year — and likely the decade and even century.

Still, this was completely illogical. If Option 1 is a briefcase with a lot of money and Option 2 is the chance to draw one briefcase out of 50, where one or two have twice as much money as the briefcase in Option 1 but all of the others have nothing, Option 1 is probably your best bet.

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