AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn had never seen anything like what Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham did on a fourth-quarter field goal attempt last Saturday.
So Malzahn, a coach who loves unique plays, wants his team to do the same thing.
Malzahn said Wednesday on the SEC coaches teleconference that he expects teams around the country to practice what Cunningham did against Auburn — a perfectly timed hurdle over the center that turns into an easy block of a field goal.
“I think what you’re going to see is everybody around the country will start practicing that, especially in desperate situations,” Malzahn said. “I don’t know who else could do it, but I’m sure all teams will start working it.”
That includes Auburn. Malzahn said he doesn’t know yet if the Tigers have anyone who can pull off that athletic feat, but they’re going to try.
“We’ll find out,” Malzahn said.
Cunningham told reporters after the game last Saturday he picked up on a cadence from Auburn long snapper Ike Powell. He then asked his coaches if he could try the improbable block.
“He said, ‘Coach, do you want me to go over the top?'” Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said. “And I said, ‘Yeah, if you can find a crease, go get it.’ And that’s exactly what he did.”
The play is perfectly legal in college football. A defender cannot jump behind the line of scrimmage and use a teammate as a springboard. But as long as the defender gets up and over without touching any players — or jumping too early for offsides — it’s OK.
A Penn State defender performed a similar block in an upset win over Ohio State last month. Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner did it in a Sunday night game against the Cardinals earlier this season.
But Malzahn had never seen anything like it with his own eyes.
“It was something,” Malzahn said with a laugh. “It was really unbelievable to watch. He went straight up, came down on his feet and blocked it. It was impressive.”