CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Wake Forest football coach Dave Clawson said the NCAA needs to review its rules on whether quarterbacks should be allowed to “fake slide” after escaping the pocket.
Clawson’s statement came after his team’s 45-21 loss to Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game Saturday night in which Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett used a fake slide to freeze defenders and run for a 58-yard touchdown on the game’s first possession.
After Pickett broke containment on a third-down run, he briefly stutter-stepped and pretended to slide after picking up the first down. Two Wake Forest defenders froze, figuring Pickett was giving himself up. Instead, Pickett made a quick cut and raced another 40 yards for a touchdown before blowing kisses to the crowd in the end zone.
While Clawson acknowledged after the game there is no rule preventing Pickett from doing what he did, he said the NCAA should consider such a rule.
“If that is the rule, I will just have my guy fake knee all the way down the field, and really, what do you do?” Clawson said. “So it’s something the NCAA is going to have to look at, and you know, you can’t fake a slide.”
Clawson said he had previously never seen a play in which a quarterback pretended to give himself up, only to keep running.
“You just train your players, as soon as your quarterback starts sliding, you stop because if you touch him it’s going to be a penalty,” Clawson said. “He started his slide and our kids stopped playing. I don’t think he did it intentionally, but if he did, he’s brilliant. I just think he reacted as an athlete. But what do you tell your players? The quarterback is protected, and there are two guys there who could have made a play but stopped playing because he started to slide.”
Pickett admitted after the game that he did do it on purpose.
“Yeah, it was intentional,” said Pickett, the ACC Player of the Year, who accounted for three touchdowns on Saturday night. “I just kind of started slowing down and pulling up and getting ready to slide and I just kind of saw their body language and they just pulled up as well. … I have never done that before. I just kind of kept going after I initially started to slide.”
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi defended his quarterback.
“I think it was called instincts,” Narduzzi said. “I think it was a heck of a football play by Kenny Pickett. I mean he started to slide, he drug his foot. The closest [defender] might have been 4 of 5 yards away. I think [Pickett] thought about it, and there was a little hesitation and he was going to go down and be safe, but then he was like, ‘Hold on a second.’ … And then he just took off.”
Narduzzi doesn’t believe Pickett did anything wrong.
“To me, I coach our defensive guys to finish the play,” Narduzzi said. “If [the quarterback] goes down a lot of times we slide over the top of them. It’s just being a football player. You have to finish the play. There’s a thing called a whistle, and when the whistle blows, you stop. Until then, you have to gather up, and if the quarterback slides too late. … We have seen guys slide too late and the quarterback gets scraped up and tattooed a little bit. It’s part of the game.”
Narduzzi added the play isn’t something the coaching staff teaches.
“We never practice it,” he said. “It wasn’t like we said, ‘Today we’re going to fake slide.’ It was a football play. And Kenny Pickett is the best, and that’s why he’s a champion.”