It’s a play all LSU football fans remember.
With the second-ranked Tigers leading No. 12 University of South Carolina, 14-7, on Sept. 22, 2007, then-junior place-kicker Colt David lined up to attempt a 32-yard field goal with less than 1:30 remaining in the first half, or so he thought.
Right before the ball was snapped, LSU senior quarterback and holder Matt Flynn yelled out “Roxie,” the Tigers’ play call for a fake.
“I had like a split second to take it into my mind ... that we were running a fake,” David said. “I didn’t really even have time to get nervous, which probably helped out in the situation. ... We did it so many times in practice it was like second nature.”
A couple seconds later, Flynn flipped the ball perfectly over his shoulder into David’s hands as the place-kicker nervously raced toward the end zone.
Looking back, David said he might have celebrated the moment a little longer, but at the time he was focused on something else — not missing the extra point.
“That was not only my first touchdown at the collegiate level being a kicker, which is a awkward thing, but it was also the first touchdown of my life,” David said. “I didn’t want to be that guy to score a touchdown, and then just sit there and miss an extra point. It was very short-lived.”
For David, the play defined his LSU career, which he finished as the all-time leading scorer in Tiger history. But the call did something else, it started the legend of LSU coach Les Miles as the “Mad Hatter.”
Only under Miles could a placekicker be known not for a game-winning kick, but instead for a fake field goal he turned into a touchdown.
“You want to be known as kicker for your kicking,” David said. “It’s kind of weird when you’re known more for a fake play.”
Miles’ faith in his players inspires them to achieve what others wouldn’t expect to be possible on special teams, like scoring on fake field goal against a ranked team or allowing an Australian punter to run a fake in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium against the University of Florida.
The last time David lined up for a field goal before the fake, he missed his first field goal of the year — a 42-yard attempt with 9:09 left in the second quarter. Yet still Miles had the confidence in him and the rest of the special teams to execute the fake.
Although to outsiders his fake calls may seem out there, Miles’ play-calling stems from the preparation and talent his players show in practice.
“It was something Les felt comfortable with because Matt Flynn was honestly automatic with it,” said former LSU running back Jacob Hester. “We had a unique situation where Colt David could really run, pretty fast. In offseason workouts, he was always one of the first guys finishing. We had an athletic kicker and a quarterback holder that was first-rate doing the flip.”
Despite the play’s effectiveness in practice, Hester said he still doubted the play would ever be called during a game.
So when the Tigers got the call against the Gamecocks, David’s heart wasn’t the only one emotionally invested in the fake field goal.
“You work on things like that so many times, and you’re like, ‘Aw, there’s no way this will get called,’” Hester said. “We practiced it perfect. If we ever called this, we’d have a shot So when the call came in, you almost feel giddy waiting for it to see if it works. It worked to perfection. It’s definitely of the play that sticks in my mind for my entire career at LSU.”
It was Hester who sealed the corner for David, but Hester said it didn’t take much because he knew David was “scootin,’” judging by the roar he heard from Tiger Stadium crowd. But given all of his work on the play in practice, Hester said he thought, “I’ll be danged if I don’t at least touch somebody here.”
Years later, both Hester and David said they are still approached by Tiger fans with stories about where they were during that play.
While the play remains one of iconic plays of his LSU tenure and key evidence in his conviction as the “Mad Hatter,” Miles’ reaction to the play eight years later embodies his coaching style perfectly.
“Sometimes, those calls work,” Miles said with a sly smile.