The trick play encompasses everything that we love about sports: gamesmanship, guts, spontaneity, and the undeniable appeal of the underdog. It's no wonder Hollywood's plucky bands of gridiron underdogs often risk it all with some sort of trick play.
To satiate your hunger for the most exciting plays in football, we teamed up with Pringles and used their new Pringles Stix® cracker sticks to present you with five of the most entertaining trick plays (in edible form).
The Hook and Lateral
[Editor's Note: 14 3/4 Pringles Stix® were used to create this play. Approximately 25 were eaten during construction.]
Examples: 1982 AFC Championship Game, 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Varsity Blues
Like most trick plays, timing is everything when pulling off a hook and lateral. It starts off seemingly ordinary enough, with the quarterback hitting his primary receiver on a slant or buttonhook route. However, while the defense is preoccupied with bringing down the ball carrier, a second receiver — who faked an innocuous crossing pattern — cuts underneath the primary, who laterals the ball to him immediately after catching it.
The controlled confusion, combined with the traffic of receivers and defenders crossing in front of each other, should give the ball carrier an uninhibited path to the end zone.
The world first became aware of the hook and lateral when the Dolphins pulled it off against the Chargers en route to the 1982 Super Bowl. Twenty-five years later during the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Boise State pulled it out to score a 50-yard touchdown on 4th-and-18 in the final minute, sending the game to overtime.
You may also remember this move from the ending of Varsity Blues, aka Billy Bob's touchdown. Here, as is often the case, the play was referred to as the "hook and ladder," but it still made for a feel-good finale. We like to think that Billy Bob treated himself to a whole lot of Pringles in celebration when he got to the postgame party.
[Editor's Note: 13 Pringles Stix® were used to create this play. Approximately 19 were eaten during construction.]
Examples: 1984 Orange Bowl, Little Giants
The original form of the Fumblerooski — also known as "The Annexation of Puerto Rico" to the millennial crowd thanks to its appearance in Little Giants — involves an intentional fumble off of the snap, followed by a fake handoff to one side while a lineman subtly picks up the ball and runs to the opposite side.
Following rule changes making an intentional fumble illegal, the late Bum Phillips tweaked the design to include a discreet handoff between the legs of a fullback, followed by a fake handoff to the halfback. Some call this revised play the "Bumerooski," but whatever you call it, if all goes according to plan, the defense misses the original exchange and pursues the halfback while the fullback heads in the opposite direction.
One of the most famous fumblerooskis occurred in the 1984 Orange Bowl, which stands among the most memorable games in college football history. Tom Osborne's Nebraska Cornhuskers successfully pulled off the play in the second quarter, but ultimately lost to Miami, who thereby established themselves as a college football power. Sadly, this trick play is rarely seen anymore due to the rule changes, proving once again that sports leagues are run by the same people who give out toothbrushes on Halloween.
[Editor's Note: 16 1/2 Pringles Stix® were used to create this play. Approximately 16 were eaten during construction.]
Examples: Super Bowl XXI, 2009 NFC Championship, Joe Theismann's final NFL play
It's simplicity may make it the most common trick play, but don't underestimate the flea flicker. It's a thing of beauty when pulled off successfully. The idea is pretty straightforward: a simple handoff up the middle, but before the running back reaches the line, he turns and laterals the ball back to the quarterback, who then looks to pass downfield.
The Giants were involved in two flea flickers in consecutive seasons in the 1980s, the latter of which resulted in a near-touchdown by Phil McConkey in their Super Bowl win over the Broncos. The first was the notorious Monday Night Football incident of 1985, which marked the end of Joe Theismann's career after Lawrence Taylor foiled the Redskins' flea flicker attempt and inadvertently snapped the QB's leg in half.
[Editor's Note: 16 Pringles Stix® were used to create this play. Approximately 22 were eaten during construction.]
Example: Super Bowl XL
Like the hook and lateral, the reverse option is a play that requires impeccable timing in order to be properly executed, and is also rarely seen due to the likelihood of things going horribly wrong. The risk is real, but the payoff can make for some pretty exciting football.
The reverse option is essentially a combination of two trick plays: the reverse and the halfback option pass. The reverse (not to be confused with an end around, which involves no misdirection) comes when an initial handoff is made to the running back, luring the defense one way, immediately followed by another handoff to a receiver cutting the opposite way across the field.
The double handoff is followed by the option portion, which is just what it sounds like. The new ball carrier chooses either to take the ball down the field himself, or — if the defense has bitten on the fake and the downfield receivers have done their job selling it — he can pass downfield to what should be a wide-open target.
A recent reverse option came during the Super Bowl XL matchup between the Steelers and Seahawks, when wide receiver Antwaan Randle El found fellow receiver Hines Ward downfield for a 43-yard touchdown pass to put the game away for Pittsburgh.
Field Goal Flip
[Editor's Note: 5 3/4 Pringles Stix® were used to create this play. Approximately 17 were eaten during construction.]
Examples: LSU vs. South Carolina in 2007, Kentucky vs. Florida in 2013
We can't have an entire post about trick plays without involving at least one special teams fake. Fake punts and field goals usually happen at least a few times a season, and are relatively frequent in the college ranks. There are far too many types to go into each one in detail, so let's focus on my favorite: the field goal flip.
In this play, the field goal unit lines up as usual, avoiding personnel substitutions that might give the defense a hint that something out of the ordinary is coming. After the snap — while everyone on the other side of the line of scrimmage is hell-bent on blocking the kick — the kicker breaks off his wind up to strike the ball and instead cuts behind the holder, who then flips it (no-look style or between the legs) behind him and sends the kicker off to the races.
The field goal flip came into play during a 2007 SEC game between LSU and the Steve Spurrier-led South Carolina team, when kicker Colt David redeemed himself after a miss earlier in the game. And who can't appreciate the irony of letting a kicker make up for an error by letting him run for a touchdown?
This play can obviously only be done for short field goal or extra point attempts, as there's no surer way to get your kicker killed than by having him try to outrun 11 defenders for 40 or so yards. But let's face it — is there anything more exciting than seeing a tiny little kicker run for his life toward the end zone? What kind of heartless monster can't appreciate that?
Football season is almost upon us, so pick up some new Pringles Stix® cracker sticks, sit back and start praying for a season full of trick plays.
Craig Lowell has written for Sports Illustrated, The Fan Hub, The Sports Post, NBA Entertainment, and the North Adams Transcript. Follow him on Twitter @craigrlowell.