NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — The 109-yard missed field goal return Nov. 30 against Alabama by Auburn’s Chris Davis was the play of the year in college football, certainly eclipsing the 109-yard field goal return LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. had back on Sept. 7 against UAB.
But Auburn special teams coach Scott Fountain said Saturday he had to give a nod of inspiration to Beckham and LSU to lead him to put Davis back there in the first place.
Before LSU handed Auburn its only loss (35-21 on Sept. 21), Fountain was breaking down video of LSU’s previous games. Naturally, his eye fell to Beckham’s late-game return against UAB.
“I saw that and thought, ‘That’s pretty neat,’ ” Fountain recalled, “especially if it’s a long field goal. We talked about it (as a coaching staff), but we never repped in practice full-speed.”
When Alabama lined up for a potential game-winning 57-yard field goal, Auburn sent safety Ryan Smith deep into the end zone. Coach Gus Malzahn called a timeout to ice Tide kicker Adam Griffith, giving Fountain a chance to lobby for Auburn to put Davis in.
“Ryan isn’t a punt returner,” Fountain explained. “I thought Chris would have the opportunity to do it, but I never thought he would do it.”
Fountain, whose brother Jason is the principal at Central Middle School, said he doesn’t think Davis’ and Beckham’s returns will make teams start putting punt coverage-like “gunners” on field goal blocking teams.
“You’d love to do that, but you have to be sound in blocking,” he said. “Blocking has to come first. I do think you will see people working to cover more in practice.”
One letter different
The coaching staff at FSU definitely has an LSU feel to it.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was LSU’s offensive coordinator from 2000-06 under Nick Saban and Les Miles. Assistant head coach/offensive line coach Rick Trickett served in the same capacity at LSU in 2000, while defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri was LSU’s linebackers/special teams coach in 2000.
“Being at LSU was a really unique experience,” Trickett said. “At the time, my kids were young and we had them in private school, but I had a chance to go home to West Virginia. If it wasn’t for that, we probably would have stayed at LSU. My wife loved the people in Baton Rouge.”
Two Auburn players hail from Louisiana, both from Thibodaux High: starting left tackle Greg Robinson and backup wide receiver Trovon Reed. Florida State center Ryan Hoefeld, a redshirting freshman, prepped at Brother Martin.
Robinson, a third-year sophomore, said he will decide after the title game whether to declare early for May’s NFL draft. He said the draft advisory board told him he could expect to be a first-round pick.
The last word
“The next 48 hours is going to be exactly like it has been the previous games we’ve had. We’re starting to get in that mode. You can really sense that our players are starting to get a little bit more in tune to the finer details of everything. So really, we’re looking forward to the next 48 hours to be exactly like the ones have been up to this point.”