Glory & Gaffe: A Tale of One Play

When you're in culinary school, working nights, and have all day to dissect game film, you watch individual plays a lot.  You watch them over, and over, and over.  You wear out the "instant replay" button on your Tivo.  Certain plays become burned into your mind from seeing them dozens of times. 

One of those plays that is burned into my mind is that fateful pick-6 that Longshore threw against UCLA in 2007. 

Why am I bringing up such horrible painful memories?  Well, since everyone is so joyful from Cal's current 2-0 start in 2011 and is sunshine pumping themselves dry, I thought it'd be a good time to relive that painful pick-6 from 2007 to simmer down the optimism and kill the happiness. We're Cal fans, remember?  Athletic success breeds pessimism.  Pain is a part of our lives... a major part of our lives.  Always expect pain.  The world isn't right when Cal fans are happy.  So let's righten the ship.  Enough with the happiness.  We need pain.

This is self-flagellation.  It's going to be painful.  But no pain no gain, right?  Trust me, I think there is a gain in here somewhere.  I think.  (I hope...)

October 20, 2007
Cal vs. UCLA 

Calucla_play_1a_medium

This painful post begins with Cal down 21-23 at the Rose Bowl.  It's a 3rd and 3.  Cal has 1:49 to score a field goal at the minimum.   Cal comes out onto the field with 21 personnel (2 backs, 1 TE, 2 WRs). 

Calucla_play_1aa_medium

Cal is in a weak-I formation (fullback to the opposite side of the tight end) with twin WRs to the weak side (the side opposite of the TE). 

 

Calucla_play_1b_medium

Cal brings the flanker WR (Cal WR #1 D. Jackson) into motion towards the formation, and right behind the split end (Cal WR #7 L. Hawkins). 

 

Calucla_play_1c_medium

Cal snaps the ball.  It's a pass play!  Longshore half-rolls to his left.  The right side of the offensive line (including the TE) retreats backwards forming the backside of the half-roll protection (curved gold line).  The RB and the FB move forward to form the front of the half-roll protection to the offense's left (the two blocking gold lines). 

 

Calucla_play_1d_medium

The two WR routes are a quick out by the flanker WR (the WR who was in motion), and a flag route by the split end.  Longshore throws the ball to the flanker, the ball is intercepted by the UCLA cornerback and it is returned for a touchdown.

Gaffe.

Painful.  Ouch.  So painful.  I'm a bad bad man for doing this to you guys (and girls), aren't I?  

Okay.  Sorry.  I don't know exactly why I chose to do that.  That was completely unnecessary to make you guys (and gals) live through that pain again. 

Since I'm sure most of you were probably expecting me to break down a play from this year, then let's do that.

 

September 3, 2011
(1,415 days after October 20, 2007)
Fresno State vs. Cal

Calfsu_play_1a_medium

The next play I'll break down is shown above.  It's 2011.  Cal is playing Fresno State.  It's early in the first quarter and Cal is facing a 3rd and 3.

 

Calfsu_play_1aa_medium

Cal comes out into the field with 21 personnel (2 backs, 1 TE, 2 WRs).  Cal is also in its new pistol formation.  The QB is five yards behind the line of scrimmage with the RB two yards behind him and the FB next to him.  Cal has twin WRs to the weak side of the formation (the side opposite of the TE). 

 

Calfsu_play_1b_medium

Cal brings the flanker WR (Cal WR #1 M. Jones) into motion towards the formation, and right behind the split end (Cal WR #21 K. Allen). 

 

Calfsu_play_1c_medium

Here's the pre-snap formation. 

 

Calfsu_play_1d_medium

Here's the post-snap picture.  (Thank you TouchedTheAxeIn82 for creating such a high quality widescreen torrent of the game so that I can get these pictures.  So puuuurrrrrrtttttyyyyy.)

 

Calfsu_play_1e_medium

It's a pass play!  Longshore Maynard half-rolls to his left.  The right side of the offensive line (including the TE) retreats backwards forming the backside of the half-roll protection (curved gold line).  The RB and the FB move forward to form the front of the half-roll protection to the offense's left (the two blocking gold lines). 

Hey wait... did you see what I did there???

 

Calfsu_play_1f_medium

The flanker WR (Cal WR #1 D. Jackson M. Jones) runs a quick out.

 

Calfsu_play_1g_medium

The QB (Cal QB #15 Z. Maynard) passes the ball to the split end!

 

Calfsu_play_1h_medium

The split end was running a flag route!  Do you feel like you've seen this play before?

 

Calfsu_play_1i_medium

The Cal split end (Cal WR #21 K. Allen) catches the ball!  First down, Bears!  Woo hoo!  Happy happy happy!

Glory.

 

CONCLUSION:

I told you that there was a purpose to the pain. 

In case you still aren't quite following what happened, these two plays ARE THE SAME PLAY.  Forget the fact that one started out with the QB under center (Longshore in 2007) and another one started out with the QB in pistol (Maynard in 2011), these are the same plays. 

As you can see, it's the same formation.  It's a weak-I formation.  Twin WRs to the weak side of the formation (side opposite of the TE).  There's a half-roll protection.  It's max protect.  Eight offensive players stay in to block and only two offensive players are releasing down the field on their routes.  The motion was the same.  The routes were the same; quick out and flag.  IT'S THE SAME PLAY! 

Interestingly, it's also the same down and distance too.  This is significant.  Most offenses categorize their plays by how many yards they expect to get out of the play.  Some plays are more suited for short yardage situations.  Others for mid-yardage gains.  Others are for long-yardage gains.  This play seemingly is in Cal's short-yardage playbook.  Why does Tedford think it's a good option for short-yardage gains?  Presumably because it's a fairly high percentage pass play.  It offers good protection (max protect), one fairly high percentage throw (the quick out), and a moderate percentage throw (the flag).  Furthermore, the quick out and flag combo sort of provide a high-low read on any flat defenders in zone.  Alternatively, if the defense is playing man coverage (such as Fresno State was), then both throws are pretty high percentage. 

So what was once so painful for Cal fans four years ago, was joyful happiness only a week and a half ago.  Cal fans cheered this very same play which four years ago they booed, cried, and argued about.  Did you ever think that was going to happen? 

You have to wonder if Tedford remembers that this play was the play on which the 2007 Cal vs. UCLA game was lost.  You know he does.  If I can remember these things, so does Tedford.  In other words, Tedford called the very same play, which haunted him four years ago, and seemingly signaled the beginning of the 2007 team's uncontrollable downfall.  Is that ballsy or what?  Tedford is like: I don't give a rat's ass about history, I'm calling this play again!  Yeah, Tedford don't give a crap about the danger.  He's like a honey badger.  Honey badger don't care.  Honey badger don't give a shit.  Nothing can stop the honey badger!  (warning: link opens up a YouTube video containing NSFW language; the video is highly entertaining though and is one of 2011's biggest internet memes, hat tip: RoyRules)

 

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Special thanks to Chicagoaubear and TouchedTheAxeIn82, as well as everyone else who helps create, uploads, and seeds torrents of Cal games.  Without your efforts, I couldn't do these types of analysis posts. 

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