Palardy's fake punt was big part of Vols victory

Palardy's fake punt was big part of Vols victory

November 28th, 2010 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - College

KNOXVILLE - Tennessee coach Derek Dooley just wasn't feeling it. Kentucky had just scored on its opening possession of Saturday afternoon's third quarter to tie the Vols at 14, and Dooley was afraid the Wildcats just might be about to take the lead.

"I just didn't want to go punt, and then they go on a 10-play, whatever-yard drive," he would say later. "I just felt like we needed to make something happen."

So on fourth-and-10 from his own 24, he ordered a fake punt. But that's actually the routine part, because he was asking freshman reserve punter Michael Palardy to carry out the fake.

Palardy had attempted one college punt before Saturday. Until Tuesday of last week he always had been on the sideline when starting punter Chad Cunningham practiced the fake.

"And the fake always went to the right," said UT senior linebacker Nick Reveiz, who blocks on the punt team. "Always the right."

Problem was, Cunningham broke a bone in his hand against Vanderbilt last week, which made it risky to use him as a punter. So Palardy was in and Cunningham out.

"I wasn't nervous," the freshman said. "I just didn't want to drop the ball."

The ball was snapped and Palardy held on. He also went left instead of right, perhaps because he's left-handed.

"My first option was a pass to Tyler Wolf," Palardy explained. "My second was to run, and my third - if both of those weren't open - was to rugby punt it."

Of course, as Palardy was quick to point out, during the three times they practiced it all week, the run always was wide open.

"Besides," he added, "with Nick Reveiz as the lead blocker, I thought everything was fine."

Reveiz wasn't so sure.

"We were inside our own 30," he said. "I'm thinking, 'Yeah, right. We're going to run that? If it doesn't work, we're going to have an awfully short field to defend.'"

But there was another reason beyond his instincts that Dooley may have felt more than fine in calling the fake. Back in his freshman year at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Coral Springs, Fla., Palardy had been a quarterback.

A year later, during his sophomore season as a kicker, the ball sailed over his head during a field-goal attempt against Miramar High. Racing back to retrieve the ball, Palardy turned and heaved it toward the end zone.

"A touchdown," he said.

So the kid had been there, done that. And he was about to do it again. With every Wildcat looking downfield to see what UK's extraordinary Randall Cobb might do with Palardy's kick, the freshman took off - for 16 yards and a first down. At that moment, he was the Vols' rushing leader on the day.

"Wow, I didn't know that," Palardy said.

What he did know was that it was only a momentary fix. Tyler Bray threw an interception nine plays later and UK got the ball on its own 20.

"But we ate up clock and let the defense recover and adjust," Dooley said, "so it helped."

Said Reveiz: "It helped a lot. They didn't score again, did they?"