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Cal Football 2008 Top 10 Moments #6

#10 - UCLA Goal line stand

#9 - Bryan Anger 72 yard punt

#8 - Shane Vereen TD Run against MSU

#7 - Best Bush Run against Washington.

As you might have remembered in Moment #7, we valiantly fought off the parasitic BearsNecessity.  He had taken a host (Yellow Fever) to feed off of.  He used Yellow Fever to grow strong and soon he inhabited the entirety of the CGB Mainframe.  He was too powerful, there was nothing we could do.  Except listen to his views on Cal Football Moment #6.  So, we let him weigh in on this moment.  I hope we just didn't make the biggest mistake of our lives.  Excuse me, second behind not banning The Maharg. 

Football Moment #6 - Stanford Hook And Ladder

TwistNHook:  Even if some of us don't quite remember that Best Bush Run from before, this one is certainly very memorable.  The scoring summary is fairly vague in its analysis:


TD 09:55 Jahvid Best 14 Yd Pass From Kevin Riley (Giorgio Tavecchio Kick) 3 24

However, the play by play guys take more time:

California at 10:31 STAN CAL
1st and 10 at CAL 50 Jahvid Best rush for 36 yards to the Stanf 14 for a 1ST down. 3 17
1st and 10 at STAN 14 Kevin Riley pass complete to Verran Tucker for no gain, lateral to Jahvid Best for 14 yards, to the Stanf 0 for a TOUCHDOWN. 3 23
  Giorgio Tavecchio extra point GOOD. 3 24
  Giorgio Tavecchio kickoff for 61 yards returned by Anthony Kimble for 32 yards to the Stanf 41.    
DRIVE TOTALS: Cal drive: 2 plays 50 yards, 00:36 Cal TD

It wasn't necessarily a key TD to the game.  Cal was already up 17-3 and would cruise to a surprisingly easy victory.

Here is the video:

It starts at about 4:25. 

BearsNecessity:  I've always wondered if the high throw by Riley was by design. It's totally in his character to put too much zip on the ball, but was it part of the selling of the play to bait the defense in?

HydroTech:  That's a good question but I don't think it was by design.  I feel like Tedford would want to keep it as simple as possible and purposely throwing the ball high might make it more complicated than it needs to be.  On the other hand it really did seem like the defense bit hard on the fake due to the fact that the ball was high.

BearsNecessity:  The play, while initially fantastic, provided a microcosm of what our season was like. Our once powerful passing machine had been sputtering all season, so we had to resort to subterfuge and trickery to attain the results we desired. Looked slick, but reinforced the notion (to the untrained eye) taht Cal's offense was a one-man show.

TwistNHook:  Hey, wait, we can pass the ball!

I mean, just 1 TD before Riley had thrown a TD pass.  To Cameron Morrah.  And that was in no way subterfuge and trickery. 

HydroTech:  Perhaps this is too philosophical but both the TD pass to Morrah and the hook and ladder could be considered subterfuge and trickery, as well as considered to be NOT subterfuge and trickery.  Both those plays are not common plays, thus why they are often considered trick plays.  However, there is nothing really "trick" about them.  They are both legal and merely take advantage of an over-pursuing defense. 


"This Big Game Moment was somewhat more memorable than the Hook And Ladder."  via

This is sort of like how certain offenses get labeled as "gimmick" offenses when there really isn't anything gimmicky about it.  It's just football.  It may be unusual football, but it's genuine legal football that is really no different in how it takes advantage of the defense than a simple playaction pass.


BearsNecessity:  Very true, but notice how almost all of our big plays this season on offense (non-Jet related) were trick plays. The slight-of-hand maneuvers are supposed to add dimensions to your offense, to not only catch good teams but send them reeling. When we faced good defenses we could not generate any movement, and were forced into difficult positions.

That doesn't take away from the quality of this play, but it'd be nice to see not only Cal utilizing the trickery but incorporating that into a well-oiled offensive machine like in 2004 and 2006. It seems we only use the gadgets exclusively when we can't move the ball otherwise, which is a pretty damning indictment about the quality of quarterback play we had this season.

TwistNHook:  Avinash, I agree and I disagree.  Unfortunately, since you've now gained control over the CGB mainframe, I can only agree with your learned wisdom!

I'm reminded of the BSU-Oklahoma Bowl Game from a few years back.  Oklahoma fans were enraged claiming that BSU had to resort to trickery to win the game.  But, I disagree.  It isn't like they had 13 players on the field then.  And it isn't like Cal had 13 players on the field for the Hook and Ladder TD. 

Sure, it might not be the most common play ever.  But just because it was not a normal play doesn't necessarily mean that a normal play would NOT have scored just as easily.  Merely because those 2 TDs were scored with non-normal plays doesn't have a far-reaching conclusion to Cal's offense.  It's anecdotal.  I am not trying to argue that Cal had a great passing game or even a passing one (terrible, I know).  Just that the fact they scored 2 TDs in 1 game on trick plays cannot be extrapolated out.


"The Hook And Ladder led to a scene like this" via

That said, if you guys watch the video, Cal is helped by a Stanford playing blocking another player.  One player was about to tackle Verran Tucker when he lateralled the ball to Jahvid Best.  That play then tries to reverse course to get Best and blocks out a Stanford defender who might have been able to get a move on Best.  Now, Best is speedy and can actually run straight through angles.

But I wonder what people would have said if Best got tackled on this play?


Ragnarok:  They probably would have said it was a terrible play call, and besides, all of the QB back-and-forth was hurting Riley's confidence, forcing him to throw the pass too high.

Hydro, in answer to your comment, outside of an option offense, laterals are rare enough in today's football offense that I would consider any play with a designed lateral to be a 'trick play', in the sense that it's highly unusual and is going to catch everyone off-guard.

What I'd like to know is why Tedford or Cignetti (whoever called this play) felt they needed to use this play at this time.  I mean, Cal's offense wasn't *that* stagnant that day, and the Bears were up two touchdowns already and knocking on the door for a third, and even if they don't move the ball at all, a short field goal puts them up three scores.  I think this is a really well-designed play, but it's the sort of thing that's only going to work approximately once a year (if that); why did we waste it on an overmatched Stanford squad?  Could an awesome play like this have made the difference at Maryland or Arizona?  Or what about Oregon State, where we *really* struggled to move the ball?  Was is just about exploiting a specific tendency in the Cardinal defense?

BearsNecessity:  I do recall that after the game some Cal players (Best?) noted how Stanford's corners raced up to defend the short pass, leaving the outside free with space to run.



HydroTech:  Why is a play used at X time?  It comes down to the following factors: down, distance, ball location within the hashes, field position, score, personnel, and timing.  Tedford has said numerous times that they often practice plays all week and they never get called in a game because it was never the right time (meaning that the determining factors weren't prevalent to justify the playcall). 

I don't think the play was "waste[ed]" on Stanfurd.  Tedford was quoted saying the play was specifically designed for Stanfurd.  In fact, Kevin Riley suggested the play to Tedford after noticing on film that the Stanfurd secondary defenders really bit hard on the screens.  Such a play may have worked against Oregon State or Maryland, but perhaps they wouldn't have.  The Beaver and Terp defenders may not attack screens in the same manner as the Furd defenders and thus the play wouldn't work. 

So, Ragnarok, I think you answered your own question, and as Bears Necessity remembers, this play was designed to specificly exploit the Cardinal defense.

TwistNHook:  I don't see particularly how a play could be "wasted" on a team?

CBKWit:  You don't particularly see a LOT of things!

HydroTech:  Look, I mean I see what you're saying, Ragnarok.

I think the difference between you calling it a "trick play" and me not calling it a trick play is you look at the mechanics of executing the play and I'm looking at the effect it has on the defense.  The lateral, is uncommon in non-option football teams nowadays, thus, as you say, it can be deemed by some to be a trick play.  But if you examine how the play differs from a playaction pass play, it's the same in that both plays draw the defense towards one area of the field and redirect the ball around the faked out defense. 

Whether the determining factor of deeming a play a "trick play" should be determined by its execution or its effect on the defense is a tough call.  I am of the opinion that we should be looking at its effect on the defense.  Critics of my stance might say that then NO plays will EVER be trick plays.  That may be true and that is fine with me.  I am of the opinion that if the play is legal, then it's not a trick play.  Afterall, the "trick" in the hook and ladder is really no different than the "trick" in a playaction pass.  The tricks are the same although accomplished via a different execution.  Unlike playcalling, which I think should be graded upon the process not the result, I think the opposite applies here.  Whether a play is a "trick play" should be determined by the result(ing effect on the defense) and not the process of executing the trick.  What matters is that there is deception, not how the deception occurs. 

Yellow Fever:  I'd like to interrupt this regularly scheduled HydroTech analysis to note that I just high fived Leon Powe.  More later.

HydroTech:  If it mattered how the deception occurred we would have to start drawing lines somewhere, and where do we start?  So when a non-option team laterals, it's a trick play?  But what about end-arounds and reverses?  Those are laterals.  Yet those are so prevalent nowadays that I don't think most coaches would even consider end-arounds and reverses as "trick plays."

So how else are we going to draw the line?  Is it by frequency?  Ragnarok's words suggest that might be a factor since he says that "any play with a designed lateral to be a 'trick play', in the sense that it's highly unusual."  But we can't use frequency.  Where do we draw the line for frequency?  When a team uses the play less than 2% of the time?  Or less than 0.5% of the time?  That line shouldn't be drawn based on frequency.  Afterall, Cal rarely QB draws or zone-reads.  Are those to be considered trick plays?  No!  Those two plays are extremely prevalent plays in modern football.

BearsNecessity:  Powe is a free throw machine. I can't believe Big Baby Davis is starting over him.


"Well, this came out of nowhere." via

HydroTech:  As you can see, if we are going to determine a play's "trick" worthiness, it can't be applied on a subjective individual team basis.  Nor do I really think it can be based on an objective NCAA basis.  It shouldn't matter how often X team uses the play.  Nor should it matter how often all the teams in the NCAA use it.  I don't think it matters how the deception is executed. 

Deception is deception no matter how it happens.  There are no such things as trick plays.


Ragnarok:  Or, alternately, every play is a trick play, because they all involve deception in some manner.

However, I think we can all agree that there is some 'layman' definition of what a trick play is, and that such a category is a real subset of all football plays.  You may find such a category faulty or even meaningless, but you can't deny that when someone says 'trickeration', a certain subset of football plays come to mind.  I think the key ingredient in such plays is this:  while every play involves deception of some sort, most plays involve deception in terms of player movement (such as pulling guards or crossing routes), or fakes that suggest the ball might go somewhere, but it in fact doesn't (like pump fakes, or play-action passes).  However, the average fan, who is watching the ball, isn't paying much attention to such things, and so isn't fooled by such 'deception'.  In the average fan's mind, a 'trick' play involves a sudden misdirection of the ball, such as occurs with laterals, reverses, and flea-flickers.  Such plays fool the fans at least as much as, if not more than, the defense.

Now, Hydro, you're obviously approaching football like a coach, instead of like a fan.  From a coaches' (or players') perspective, are such 'ball movement' tricks any more effective than other forms of deception?  Are they as effective?  Reliable?  Why are they (relatively) rare?

BearsNecessity:  They are rarely used because not only are they difficult to execute, but because if they fail and result in a turnover or an error, the coach can be subject to severe criticism for taking a risk he didn't necessarily need to take. Especially if it happens in the flow of the game, it can have a big psychological impact on a team that has been playing well. Usually you'll only see plays of this sort when you're playing with house money (Cal nursing a comfortable two touchdown lead, Boise State on its last play of the season, etc.)

And Hydro, I'd have to disagree to an extent. A play action, while it does involve deception, is within the process of the game and directly involves the quarterback making the decision on how to sell the play.  A hook and ladder, while planned, has some degree of spontaneity that isn't entirely controlled (the running back has to cut at precisely the right time, the receiver has to lateral as well). There's a higher element of risk involved, which is probably what we assume with trick plays. Just like when a magician's sawing that woman in half with his tricks; if you screw it up, expect real recrimination.

TwistNHook:  Ruh roh.  Avinash and Ragnarok teaming up against HydroTech? 

Hydro, do you want me to exile Avinash and Ragnarok to CGB North?  I will do it. 

HydroTech:  Yes, please exile them.  Dissenting opinions will not be tolerated!

TwistNHook:  I have a bad feeling that before all is said and done, Hydro will be exiling me to CGB North. 

Ragnarok:  Just you try it, buddy.  You don't have the stones!

TwistNHook:  That is true, I do lack stones.  Luckily, Hydro has many stones.  He has a rock garden done in a very tasteful Arizona-style.  Perhaps I can borrow some of the stones from there.  Hydro, may I have some of your stones?


"Hydro's stones form a lovely rock garden" via

HydroTech:  Nobody touches my stones.  Nobody except Brock Mansion.

TwistNHook:  Mental Note:  Ask Brock Mansion to steal Hydro's stones.  Also, weasel extra invite onto Party Yacht for wife. Actually, on second thought, ensure just enough invites for only me to go. 

Ragnarok:  Did this serious discussion thread just turn into a DBD?

TwistNHook: There was a serious discussion in here? 

HydroTech:  Shutup, Ragnarok.  You're exiled!