Today we wrap up our series on trick plays with perhaps the simplest of all: the direct snap. Then, we’ll take a partial review of our October tricks with a look at a college game that showcased three of them.
The Direct Snap
As you know, on a typical play, the center snaps the ball to the quarterback, who either: (1) keeps the ball and runs with it; (2) hands it to a running back who runs with it; or (3) passes it to a receiver (a wide receiver or tight end). With a direct snap, the center snaps the ball directly to the player who is to be the ball carrier, usually the running back. That player either takes off with the ball, or he might toss it back to the QB for a flea flicker.
This is effective because it eliminates the time it takes for the quarterback to look for, and transfer the ball to, a teammate. The defense counts on this delay, and uses that time to try and break up the play before the QB can get rid of the ball. With a direct snap, the defense doesn’t have time to react to the offense and the ball carrier has the opportunity to make a big gain.
The direct snap is simple, but the offense can add another wrinkle to confuse the defense further. One option is for the quarterback to pretend that the snap has come to him but something has gone wrong. He can do this by leaping up as if the ball went over his head, or by searching the ground as if the ball is rolling around loose. If the QB is convincing, the defense will try to recover the loose ball for a turnover while the runner is taking off with the ball.
Another bit of acting you might see is the quarterback leaving his place behind the center and walking toward the sideline as if to talk to the coaches. If he does this, the defense will relax, expecting a time out to be called by the offense. As the QB walks away, the ball is then snapped to the running back. Why is this legal, you ask? Under the rules, the offense can have one player behind the line of scrimmage that is “in motion” before the ball is snapped. As long as that player does not move toward the line of scrimmage, and the rest of the offense stays completely motionless, the play is legal.
The 2007 Fiesta Bowl
I want to revisit the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, which I used as an example for a Statue of Liberty play. This game, between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Boise State Broncos, was hotly contested and will forever be considered one of the closest and most exciting games in college football. It is also interesting for the fact that Boise State used not only the Statue of Liberty play, but two other trick plays in its final efforts to win the game in overtime, 43 to 42. Here they are in one clip: starting with a hook and lateral with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter; then a halfback pass in overtime; and finally, the Statue of Liberty for a two-point conversion to win the game:
Well, I hope you enjoyed our look at trick plays this month, and I especially wish you and safe and happy Halloween!