PULLMAN – The veil has finally been lifted off the Microsoft engineer that drew up the “Big Gulp Left” formation Mike Leach and Washington State have used multiple times this season, most recently for a 24-yard touchdown during Saturday’s 34-20 win over No. 12 Oregon at Martin Stadium.
The vague coordinates of the play’s origins were also learned: at a bar, off the coast of Cambodia.
Shortly after “Big Gulp Left” sprung James Williams for a first-quarter score that gave the Cougars an early 7-0 lead over the Cougars, a Spokesman-Review source identified the play’s inventor and Leach confirmed later that it was Patrick Baumgartner, a Microsoft engineer who’s also the brother of Spokane-based state senator Michael Baumgartner, who suggested the coach give it a try.
From his highly-popular Twitter account, Leach wrote Sunday night “Shoutout to WSU alum and Microsoft engineer Patrick Baumgartner for designing our “Big Gulp” formations…really smart big idea guy with an unusual way of looking at things…sold me on it while hanging out on the Cambodian coast.”
At a watering hole off the Cambodian coast, to be exact.
Over the summer, Leach and a group of Washington-based lawmakers including Michael Baumgartner traveled to Cambodia where they met with the prime minister and other government officials. Patrick, a WSU graduate and avid football fan who has no apparent coaching or playing background, tagged along and sketched out a tree of trick plays for Leach that stem from the old swinging gates formation.
The Cougars have run a few different variations of “Big Gulp Left” this season and strolled it out for the first time in a live situation during the opener at Wyoming. Wide receiver Kyle Sweet typically lines up as the center, snapping diagonally to quarterback Gardner Minshew, who hands the ball off to a running back or wide receiver in motion.
Saturday, Williams got the handoff and the play, which probably should’ve lost yardage, surprisingly went for a 24-yard score. The junior running back eluded four tacklers behind the line of scrimmage then three to four more before hitting the right sideline and eventually lunging into the end zone.
“I thought it was good, that play wasn’t exactly how I drew it up,” Leach said postgame. “He made about eight guys miss, which was the most impressive part of it.”
Leach preferred not to divulge Patrick Baumgartner’s identity after the game, noting “I think he plans to remain anonymous. The play itself, we kind of just put them together, but the notion of revolutionizing swinging gates – it’d be fine with me, but I’m not sure he’s a spotlight guy.”
Williams said he wasn’t sure what to make of the play when Leach introduced it to the Cougars in fall camp.
“It was half and half, more crazy (because) I thought it wasn’t going to work,” he said. “We’ve got to make it work, we’ve just got to execute it. As crazy as it looks, we’ve got to execute it every time we run it.”
Even if it does nothing else for the Cougars this season, it was responsible for six of the 34 points they scored in a critical Pac-12 North game against the Ducks.
The “Big Gulp” moniker itself was created by Leach, who feuded with USA Today’s Dan Wolke on Twitter and told The Seattle Times Wolke would be “selling Big Gulps in a couple years” after the columnist criticized the WSU coach for tweeting out a video of a doctored Barack Obama speech.
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