Kalani Sitake’s hires wear a lot of different labels on his BYU football staff.
Some are inexperienced at their Division I jobs, some came to his office from regular jobs unrelated to football, some are funny, others serious, most all are very emotional and at least one is a legend.
But you have to respect the honesty of assistant head coach Ed Lamb, who also heads the special teams for the Cougars.
Lamb’s label is one of experience. Even if it draws some fire and some folks wonder, “What in the name of Ernest L. Wilkinson were you thinking?!”
After BYU received coast-to-coast second-guessing and even acute teasing for that fourth-and-19 punt from the Cougars’ own goal line at Boise State, Lamb absorbed it all and didn’t flinch when questioned about the issue on ESPN 960’s Coordinator’s Corner Monday.
If a guy ever had to face the music, Lamb was suited up for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on this one.
Lamb acknowledged, before the masses, it was a head scratcher on steroids.
He admitted, in retrospect, having Jonny Linehan run out of punt formation with his back to the back of the end zone line looked like a very dumb play.
However… going by gut instincts, he’d do it again if the right circumstance showed itself. Because, he claimed, BYU is going to be aggressive. It is Sitake’s philosophy to let it be known to current players, recruits and fans, this staff will not be afraid to go for anything, anywhere, any time.
— Brandon Judd (@brandonljudd) November 1, 2016
“Johnny did a great job of getting that punt out of the end zone, even though we took some heat for that play. He did a great job from being a safety,” said Lamb.
Yes, he did.
But why run?
“It turned out to be the wrong call. It is important to say,” said Lamb prefacing his explanation.
“Thoughts going into it, we felt we could have a fake punt if it was there, if Boise State gave us that pre-snap look. Credit Boise State, they gave us that pre-snap look, then did something different than they’d done all season, they folded and actually played for a safe return.
Lamb described the gambling situation in that kind of territory with what a famous bank robber Willie Sutton once said when a judge asked him why he robbed banks.
“Well, Judge, that’s where the money is.”
That is where the fake punts are, said Lamb of a situation least expected by an opponent.
“You can’t try a fake when it’s safe to do it deep in their territory. Generally you do it in your own territory, that’s where a team loads up for a blocked punt or a holdup. We felt if we got any of those looks, we’d have a great opportunity to pull off a fake.
“Inside from your own 5, even if you get a punt you aren’t going to have great field position, but it isn’t a great proposition. It didn’t work. For letting down the team, I have a lot of regret that I didn’t have a better play that worked.”
Fortunately for the Cougars, Boise State got called for a personal foul and failed to take advantage. It became a push in the game.
Lamb said he looked to Sitake and the chatter in the headsets was that it was going to be a check by him, a call made by him. Sitake said it would be a short field no matter what happened, even with a punt under pressure, “So, give it a rip,” said Lamb’s boss.
Lamb said it turned out to be the wrong call but it wasn’t the wrong time to consider a call like it.
“[I] Wouldn’t say we’d do it again. Everything really has to be in place and it was studied, it was decided before the game if we got a particular look in a particular part of the field and we felt like it was there; all things being equal again, I think it is a is a great call. And I trust our guys to make it work. We’ve stated we wanted to be aggressive with our calls and the way we coach.”
The coach didn’t spin it. But like any smart coach, and Lamb is a smart guy, he is trying to use it and turn it into a positive experience that can be applied down the road. If for any other reason, to keep people guessing and players engaged in an attack mentality.
At least that’s what one could surmise from Lamb’s discourse.
“Sometimes doing that in clutch situations like that, even if it is a failure, there is a carry over game to game and season to season,” he said.
So begins BYU’s game week heading into the final road game at Cincinnati.
On Monday, Cougar players said a week off to lick wounds and recharge should make a difference down the home stretch.
For Lamb, pin him down, he doesn’t mind.
He doesn’t pivot. Or patronize.