In the Statue of Liberty play, the quarterback takes the snap and fakes a pass when he actually hands the ball to a runner. How is this deception accomplished? First, when he takes the snap, the quarterback makes a motion that looks like a pass (a “pump fake,” so called because he is pumping his arm in a throwing motion). However, the ball is not in his throwing hand. Instead, he has it hidden behind his back in his non-throwing hand. The halfback, or a receiver who was in motion before the ball was snapped, the runs behind the quarterback and takes the ball for a run up the field. With one arm raised and the other at his side, the QB's position is reminiscent of Lady Liberty's pose, hence the name.
Unlike the flea flicker or the halfback pass, in which the offense pretends to run but actually throws the ball, the Statue of Liberty is designed to make the defense think that the play is a pass when it is actually a run. Therefore, the linebackers and the secondary will fall back into pass defense, leaving room for the runner to advance the ball for a big gain or a touchdown. As with other trick plays, though, there is always the potential for disaster.
Even though it is a play with a long history, you don’t see it very often, especially in the NFL. One reason is that it takes a while for the play to develop, but also because defenses are usually coached to watch for a pump fake and misdirection on pass plays. However, the following clip is a recent play famously executed by Boise State University to win the 2007 Fiesta Bowl in overtime, making this one of the most exciting endings to a football game ever:**
What you don't see in this clip is that the running back who scored proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend on the sideline after the game. She said yes, naturally.
**More on this game later in the series!