‘Goater’ takes rap for bad Lions snap


QB McGhee admits mistake, but there is lots of blame to go around

QB Greg McGhee during BC Lions mini camp at their practice facility in Surrey, BC, April 29, 2015.

QB Greg McGhee during BC Lions mini camp at their practice facility in Surrey, BC, April 29, 2015.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG

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The backward, underhand, between-the-legs handoff from the centre to the quarterback is the most elementary move in football.

It’s called the snap, but it’s anything but, as the B.C. Lions demonstrated to their horror in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game in Edmonton.

Centre Jason Foster — who spends so much time with another man’s hands on his buttocks that he can identify the quarterback blind-folded, just by the feel — realized his greatest fear on an exchange with backup QB Greg McGhee.

Scrimmaging from the Edmonton one-yard line, the Lions simply had to punch the ball into the end zone to take an eight-point lead — possibly nine, with the convert — that might have iced a winning result against the first-place Eskimos.

Bending down, Foster rotated the ball so he could place his right thumb over the laces, let the rest of his right hand fall naturally into place, and then … disaster.

McGhee never got control of the snap, fumbled the exchange and the football bounced into the end zone, where it was recovered and returned 34 yards by the Eskimos’ Deon Lacey. Edmonton eventually went on to win 26-23 in overtime.

“The ball came out a little funky on the snap,” Foster confessed Tuesday, after the Lions returned to the practice field and later discussed the game-turning play. “I’ll put the blame on me. I was cocked too forward to make my block and I muffed the snap.”

As noble as it is for Foster to take the rap, McGhee, whose nickname just happens to be “Goater,” insists he should be made the scapegoat.

“As much as he (Foster) said that, I honestly think it’s my fault,” McGhee admitted. “I didn’t get the ball properly. I didn’t fix my hands the way they were supposed to be fixed. It just has to happen. The ball hit my hand, and I have to catch it.”

Coach Jeff Tedford was deemed just as culpable by many Lions fans for sending McGhee into the game in the first place. It was the only instance against Edmonton where the rookie quarterback got to (mis) handle the ball. Jon Jennings was behind centre for the other 45 offensive plays.

“It doesn’t really concern me getting hurt on a sneak. We can get injured at any time,” Jennings said.

That’s precisely the reason, though, why Jennings was removed temporarily so that McGhee could take the brunt of the defensive push at the goal-line, Tedford explained.

“You take the hits off your (starting) quarterback by doing that,” Tedford said. “It’s like earlier in the year, when Travis (Lulay) was starting, Jennings was running the quarterback sneaks. It’s something that Greg had practised all week long and has done so for the past few weeks.”

The thing is, McGhee, who works with the scout team, usually takes the bulk of his snaps during the practice week from Cam Thorn, the backup centre, not Foster. The evidence might suggest there was a tad of unfamiliarity at play at here. Complicating matters further is that McGhee is left-handed; Jennings’ dominant hand, is his right.

“One hundred per cent. It’s not something we can do in our sleep,” Foster said. “But it’s your livelihood, your job. You gotta do things sometimes that are against your job … and adjust to different styles. This is one of the styles I have to adjust to. It’s my fault.”

The injury issue aside, would it not limit the possibility of bad exchanges to have the starting quarterback take snaps on all plays, including short yardage as is done in NCAA football and the NFL? Jennings took every one at Saginaw Valley State. But that’s not the way in the CFL.

“I guess you could say it’s safer (to have him take the snaps) because I’m more in rhythm, just by being in the game,” Jennings said. “It’s (short-yardage quarterback) just kind of something that is done in the CFL.”

“Here in the CFL game, when you use the shotgun (formation) 99 per cent of the time, you don’t get the under-the-centre reps that you do in other leagues,” says R.J. Archer, the Lions’ fourth quarterback. “That’s some of the reasons (for fumbles). There’s just not as much familiarity with it. But a quarterback sneak is not a normal play. When a team knows you’re going to try and sneak the ball, they start piling everybody in there. The centre has two huge guys in front of him, the quarterback’s thinking about pushing forward as quick as he can, there’s a lot going on. There are a lot of little intricacies that make it tougher than a casual observer would see.”

Perhaps that’s why it’s called a quarterback sneak. It conceals all the things that can go wrong — and did, for the Lions.



QB Greg McGhee during BC Lions mini camp at their practice facility in Surrey, BC, April 29, 2015.

QB Greg McGhee during BC Lions mini camp at their practice facility in Surrey, BC, April 29, 2015.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG

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