It didn't start with the Fainting Goat. No, Arkansas State became Trick Play U when Gus Malzahn arrived to campus with his steamer trunk of chicanery. And "Hide The Midget" actually made national headlines long before the Fainting Goat. But Goat was the play that propelled the Red Wolves, WR Booker Mays and instigator Coach Anderson to quasi-celebrity.
That day in Miami is the day Arkansas State became an accredited school of tomfoolery.
Ironically, the play failed. The Fainting Goat was, in fact, a disaster that led to a turnover. And while some people keyed on the failure, more rejoiced in its creativity. Now, when watching a Red Wolves game on TV (or on your smartphone or tablet), the broadcast crew is 100% certain to advise opponents to "watch out for trick plays."
Lately, the Red Wolves have only been fooling themselves.
Blake Anderson knows that the key to executing a trick play is to do it when it's least expected. Those moments are hard to choose. Last year against hated rival ULL, Anderson attempted to punt from the Red Wolves' own seven yard line. It was a disaster. Against USC this year, Anderson dialed up a fake XP attempt that fizzled at the snap. Against South Alabama, Anderson tried another fake punt on his first possession and rewarded prime field position to the Jaguars (who immediately capitalized with a TD).
Every one of these plays not only put the defense in a no-win position, they murdered momentum. Plus, all snafus were featured on national TV.
It's almost as if the Red Wolves are prisoners of their own self-molded reputation.
Coach Blake Anderson is a unconventional guy who hands out free football tickets to fast food workers, auctions his head coaching job on Spring Games, and wears t-shirts on the sidelines. He preaches faith, family and fun, which plays well in the Arkansas Delta. He's adored by his players, and he finds ways to win. He also keeps A-State in the news, which is no small feat.
But maybe it's time to drop our accreditation as Trick Play U. It has served its purpose. The Red Wolves have a rep for creativity that will last years. Fun may help with recruiting, but winning has more cache.
Perhaps the most effective trick play is no trick play at all.