TIME SQUAD VOL.5: Back and to the Left

By Ramzy Nasrallah on February 16, 2022 at 1:15 pm

A successful punt block is made from four critical components.

  1. Arrival. Get to the punter. If this does not happen, his punt stays on schedule.
  2. Extension. Channel Superman, at least from the waist-up. Spread fingers, get long, flex everything.
  3. Interruption. Take the ball off the punter's foot without swatting at it. Just be stiff and obstructive.
  4. Completion. An insurance policy for the receiving team. Do not make contact with the punter.

Going 4/4 in these components produces a 100% likelihood of a blocked punt. Success while only going 3/4 or 2/4 requires the punting team to make an error, so the goal must always be 4/4. Punt blocking is a discipline that requires speed, power, form and commitment.


How many punt blocking components is Chris Olave executing here against Michigan in 2018?


This is what hitting for the cycle looks like in punt-blocking. Olave went 4/4 in this instance, arriving, interrupting, extending and completing the punt block in 2018.

He exhibited speed, power, form and commitment in turning a Michigan punt into a Sevyn Banks touchdown. A decade earlier, another Buckeye nearly pulled off a block of this magnitude. Alas...he did not. But this is Time Squad, so now he can.

Today we're revisiting the 2008 BCS title game, which followed the 2007 season.


Spitler arrived at the punter unfashionably early

One year after being humiliated by Florida, the Buckeyes were back in the BCS title game facing an SEC champion again. It was a storybook design for redemption; there are second chances.

Unlike in 2006, no one got fat or overconfident on the postseason awards banquet circuit. There was no cataclysmic One Versus Two event with a six-week buildup against Michigan. Those coronation vibes which had lulled the previous team into a false sense of security has vanished.

If anything, Ohio State was too amped up. After jumping out to a quick 10-0 lead on LSU, the Tigers used two Buckeye personal fouls to extend and finish a touchdown drive as part of a 24-0 run into halftime.

Ohio State finished the night with four 15-yard penalties. The last two are what did them in.

The opening drive of the 3rd quarter would end with LSU punting on 4th & 23, and the Buckeyes beginning to flex their will. Vern Gholston had sacked LSU QB Matt Flynn, who was called for intentional grounding on the play. The timing was ripe for another big play.

Ohio State's special teams would seize on the opportunity to take control of the 2nd half. Let's revisit our four punt blocking components: Arrival, Extension, Interruption, Completion.

he rushed the body instead of the leg

Ohio State's third personal foul of the game ceded momentum to LSU. Let's grade the attempt.

ARRIVAL SPEED Spitler arrived way ahead of schedule. This required an adjustment that never came.
EXTENSION POWER ✖︎ His velocity caused him to abandon Superman. He did not spread or get long.
INTERRUPTION FORM ✖︎ He did not take the ball off the punter's foot, instead swatting back and to the left.
COMPLETION COMMITMENT ✖︎ Hit him right in the numbers with his helmet. Bad angle. Insurance policy, lapsed.

Spitler's Arrival was ahead of schedule, which is better than being late - especially if it goads the punter into a panic or mistake. Unfortunately, his Extension, Interruption and Completion were not compatible with his timing.

LSU's 4th & 23 from its own 40 was now a 1st & 10 at the OSU 45. Cameron Heyward committed Ohio State's fourth personal foul on the very next snap and the Tigers were celebrating in the endzone two plays later.

Let's visit the alternate universe where Spitler blocks the punt with nearly 11 minutes left in the 3rd quarter:

  • That's a touchdown. LSU 24, OSU 17. Take Heyward's personal foul and LSU's TD off the board.
  • Momentum was already swinging in the Buckeyes' direction even with the roughing call. Malcolm Jenkins picked off Matt Flynn on LSU's next possession and the Tigers went 3-and-out twice in a row after that.
  • As with Nick Bosa's ejection against Iowa, we don't know if reversing a single play swings the outcome in Ohio State's favor. But unlike the Iowa City Massacre, this one was never out of reach.

Florida's dominating win in the previous BCS title game blurred how competitive this one was, painting over the details with another SEC blowout loss for the Buckeyes. This would have been a 14-point swing in a game LSU won by 14.

Beanie Wells had over 7 yards per carry and Ohio State out-gained LSU overall. Comparing this game to the previous BCS title game is insulting to Florida. The Buckeyes were just unforced error machines. Let's continue:

  • A win, and it's Jim Tressel's second BCS title in six seasons and a breakage in what was a burgeoning SEC renaissance. A closer loss in what was basically an LSU home game and the worst-case scenario here is begrudging respect.
  • Todd Boeckman, BCS title-winning quarterback, likely gets a much longer leash to go with his championship confidence and isn't benched in Game 3 for Terrelle Pryor, who percolates on the sideline a little longer, if not throughout the 2008 season.
  • WR Brian Hartline, one of Boeckman's best friends, achieves similar if not better production as a junior with his future groomsman under center. Hartline had 52 catches in 2007 and less than half of that in 2008 before bolting for the NFL. He was conspicuously and emotionally affected by the switch.
  • Future QB recruiting is unaffected. Braxton Miller was already a sure thing for Ohio State prior to kickoff that night.
  • Spitler was a beloved captain and a multi-year starter who always gave maximum effort. This could have been a statue moment for him.

Verdict: Proceed. Meddling with Spitler's ill-fated punt block attempt carries more reward than risk. Time Squad, let's try this again in another space and era.

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