Coaches like to keep the game plan simple. Staying basic eliminates risk and ensures every player is on the same page. However, simple doesn't always work. Whether due to limited talent on your own team or a matchup with a difficult opponent, sometimes creativity is the key to victory. Enter the trick play.
Trick plays are a part of nearly every sport, since deception can cause opponents to make mental mistakes, leading to easy success. In the past week alone, we've seen a bevy of trick plays. Some failed (albeit they were hilarious), some illegal and some successful. We looked back through history to find some of the best trick plays ever, considering factors such as risk, creativity and outcome. Here are the nine craziest trick plays in sports history.
1. The Fumblerooski
You're down 17-0 in the Orange Bowl. It's third-and-5. You're deep in your opponent's territory and need a touchdown to stay in the game. What do you do?
If you're former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, you have your quarterback deliberately put a live ball on the ground and let one of your big lineman scoop it up and try to take it in for 6. Known as the Fumblerooski, this incredibly risky play is now banned in the NFL but still legal in the college game. As you can see, when run effectively it doesn't just fool the defense, but the cameraman as well!
2. The Barking Dog
The "barking dog" play, when done correctly, is an inbounds play that leads to an easy bucket. A number of teams have run this play, and this video shows how to run it perfectly. While everyone is matching up with their man prior to the inbound pass, one offensive player gets on his hands and knees and barks wildly like a dog. While everyone is distracted thinking the kid needs a rabies shot, a second offensive player streaks to the hoop, receives the inbounds pass and sinks an uncontested layup.
I particularly like this instance of the "barking dog" play because of the player's commitment. He doesn't just act like a dog; for those three seconds, he becomes a dog. The man guarding him is so bewildered that he doesn't offer any help defense, and the team in red gets its easiest points of the season.
3. Boise State's Big Bag of Tricks
This entry isn't about one specific trick play, but rather a monumental upset that featured a wide range of wacky plays by the underdog. Boise State's victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl was one of the greatest games ever, and it included three insane trick plays by the Broncos.
The first came at the end of regulation, with Boise trailing by a touchdown. On fourth-and-18, the Broncos executed a perfect hook and lateral, burning the overpursuing Sooners to tie the game. Then in overtime, lined up in a wildcat formation, they looked to be running a sweep to the right, only to have the halfback pull up and throw the ball over the defense for 6. Boise State could've simply kicked an extra point to tie it, but they elected to go for two and the win. They ran a beautifully executed statue of liberty, and running back Ian Johnson went untouched into the end zone to upset mighty Oklahoma. Johnson promptly proposed to his girlfriend, who of course said "yes." Yeah, this all actually happened and is not just the premise to a feel-good Disney movie.
4. The Lax Hidden Ball Trick
You've heard of the hidden ball trick in baseball, but how about lacrosse? Maryland pulled off this sneaky play against UNC in the first round of the NCAA tournament a few years ago.
A Maryland player heads back to the midline and appears to hand the ball off to a teammate. But he never actually does. UNC doesn't know that, and they follow the player with the invisible ball as he makes some fancy moves, leaving the player who actually has the ball an easy path to a wide open net and a goal.
5. The Perfect Fake Field Goal
There've been a ton of fake field goals over the years, but in terms of sheer design, I love this play by Cal from their 2013 game against Northwestern.
The kicker starts things off by giving a ridiculous looking fake kick before spinning and running to the right. The holder then tosses a no look, over-the-head pass to the kicker. Northwestern thinks they have the trick play all bottled up, presumedly because they've seen Les Miles run it a few times. But Cal throws in an extra wrinkle, having the holder release up field. The kicker throws to the wide open holder for an easy touchdown.
6. The Collision Play
One of the funniest trick plays ever. Set pieces offer great chances for deception, but this free kick took it to another level. Conway, the team in blue, lines up a good portion of their team on the right side of the field in a big clump. Three Conway players remain on the left side of the field, where the ball has been spotted.
When the whistle blows, two Conway players move toward the ball like they're both going to kick it, only to collide and fall to the ground. While everyone is laughing and distracted, the third Conway player passes a perfect ball to a man streaking out of the jumbled mess from the right for an easy one-touch finish. I love the dedication here; you can actually hear a "thud!" when the two players run into each other.
7. The Shotgun Alley-Oop
This trick play might leave you a little confused about what sport you're watching. After winning the opening tip, the team in white sets up in a football formation in their own backcourt. They motion one of their own players from left to right before a player "snaps" the ball between his legs to a player behind him.
While the crowd is laughing and the team in black is wondering if they should've brought their shoulder pads, the white team streaks up the court. The black team stands in a big group, possibly paralyzed by confusion, allowing an opposing player an easy backdoor cut and an alley-oop for a touchdown. Or 2 points. Whatever.
8. The Fake Pickoff
This play might be a little "bush league," but you can't hate the execution. With a runner on second and needing only one more out to end a tight game, Carson-Newman College pulled off this fantastic trick play. The pitcher fakes a pickoff move to second base, baiting the runner into diving back headfirst. Both the shortstop and second baseman dive for the invisible ball, and the center fielder makes a beeline to go pick it up.
Assuming he can easily advance on the overthrow despite never actually having seen the ball, the runner takes off toward third base. The pitcher casually takes the ball out of his glove, where it has been the whole time, and flips to the third baseman who applies the tag and ends the game. Who said baseball was boring?
9. The Wrong Ball Play
Ah, yes. The infamous "wrong ball" play. It involves a quarterback saying he has the "wrong ball" (whatever that could mean), walking towards the bench to seemingly get a different ball, and then taking off down the sideline for an uncontested touchdown. It was cool the first time we all saw it, but it has since been done to death and just isn't that great anymore. However, watching instances where the "wrong ball" play goes, well, wrong, never gets old. There's something satisfying about watching one defensive player (who no doubt had already seen the play on YouTube) not fall for it and get rewarded with a free hit. Kids, let this be a lesson. If your coach wants you to run the "wrong ball" play, assure him the opposing team saw it when it went viral eight years ago and all that'll happen is you getting crushed for a TFL.
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