Varying snap counts is a great way to keep the defense from getting a great jump at the snap, to manufacture five yards in a key situation, and to gain a "free" play in which the defense has jumped offsides and the offense can take a shot down the field without fear of an interception or incompletion.
To take advantage of a "free" play, many teams now plan for the free play. Though teams may execute it differently, it works like this: the team has a called play, and a "free" play. If the defense jumps and the center snaps the ball, the receivers run streaks down the field, and the quarterback throws to one of them (the "free" play). If the defense does not jump, the other play is executed. This way, the offense ensures that it can take advantage of the "free" play by attempting to gain the most yards possible (with the vertical routes), as opposed to being "stuck" with a free play where the receivers run short patterns or the offense runs the ball. The idea is, obviously, that the offense already knows it will get at least 5 yards on the play, so it might as well go for 35+ on the free play.
The play is also a fitting one to watch from the final game of Jared Goff and an excellent group of senior receivers. Goff throws a nice deep ball on the play, with Maurice Harris making the type of one handed catch that has typified the acrobatics that this group of receivers has displayed over the years.
Clever concepts and execution like this one are a big reason why Cal has gone from one of the worst teams in the country to a bowl winner in three seasons.
Personally, thank you for all of the kind words and comments this season, which made writing the Golden Spotlight an enjoyable experience.
Keegan Dresow was the coach of the Avedøre Monarchs of the Danish American Football Federation for seasons, and is the author of Offensive Football Systems.