What is Tim Cramsey going to pull out of his hat next?
No one knows.
Especially Marshall University’s next football opponent.
Just ask Ohio University.
Think the Bobcats expected the old-school original Statue of Liberty play during a 33-31 loss to the Thundering Herd on Sept. 14? Of course not. How about the ol’ hook-and-ladder? Nope.
Granted, Ohio coach Frank Solich has been around long enough to have experienced these plays before. But who actually sees them coming?
That’s the beauty of going old school.
It all began with a Statue of Liberty play in the first quarter.
“I had never heard of it,” said MU quarterback Isaiah Green. “I guess it was a legendary play that Boise State had used. It was kind of a roll-the-dice call.
“We ran it to the boundary. [Running back Brenden] Knox came around and got a good seal [block]. He sealed the end and [tight end] Xavier [Gaines] was able to get around it. He just split right through because we had one of the offensive linemen coming out to block and the receiver coming down to block the safety. It just split it right through the middle.”
This was the original version of the Statue of Liberty play. The ball wasn’t in Green’s out-stretched right hand as if he was going to throw it, so the ball-carrier could snatch it off his hand. Instead, Green had his passing arm extended as if he were going to throw, but the ball was actually behind his back in his left hand. Gaines cut behind Green and simply took the hidden handoff.
The play went for 24 yards and set up a field goal.
“Oh, that’s Doc’s play,” said Gaines, referring to MU head coach Doc Holliday. “Doc made that play. That’s what we call it — ‘Doc.’ That’s because it’s that old-school. I had never seen it before. Never even heard of it.”
But Gaines certainly did enjoy running the play.
“Isaiah played it off great,” said Gaines. “He acted like he was going to throw the ball and Knox came across his face like he was going to throw the ball and, then, he winded it back and handed it off to me and I basically made a play.”
Next came another bit of chicanery in the second quarter. Left tackle Will Ulmer suddenly shifted out to the left and lined up beside an outside receiver. Ulmer wasn’t an eligible receiver, but that left tight end Devin Miller as the outside guy on the line of scrimmage and he was eligible.
When the ball was snapped, Ulmer started jumping up and down and waving his arms as if to signal he was open. Meanwhile, the defense was watching Ulmer’s antics, allowing Miller to run uncovered down the right side of the field for a wide-open 22-yard touchdown pass.
“I don’t know exactly what the correct term would be for that play,” said Green. “But I know it worked. We got a touchdown out of it.”
Finally, with Marshall trailing in the fourth quarter, Cramsey dusted off the old hook-and-ladder play. Green tossed a short pass to slot receiver Artie Henry behind the line of scrimmage, then Henry handed the ball to running back Sheldon Evans, who rambled 18 yards for a first down.
The hook-and-ladder set up Marshall’s game-winning touchdown pass.
What’s equally important is MU’s players enjoyed running these old trick plays.
“It’s fun,” said Green. “That’s the goal to playing football ... it’s to have fun. A lot of people kind of forget that aspect of the game. Obviously, the business part of it is everybody wants to win. But you’ve got to have fun doing it at the same time. I feel like that helps with the team having fun.”
So, what’s next?
What sort of trickery might the University of Cincinnati encounter when it plays Marshall at 5 p.m. Saturday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium?
I suggest Marshall’s legendary “Tower Pass.”