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X’s and O’s

In this week’s X’s and O’s, Nick Scoliard breaks down the trick play that got Northwestern lineman Paul Jorgensen a touchdown.

Xs and Os: Ineligible Trickery

The Wildcats closed off their surprising season by humiliating Illinois to bring home the coveted Land of Lincoln Trophy. A shellacking on all fronts, the Wildcats played one of their best games, rushing for 338 yards, and gaining 450 total yards. Colter went 9 for 11 for 102 yards and 3 passing touchdowns, and grabbing 88 yards and one touchdown with his legs. Mark had his usual game, going for 127 yards on 18 carries, and grabbed one touchdown. 8 players on the offense rushed for multiple carries, 7 of them gaining at least 10 yards (we still love you Bo Cisek). No matter how you slice it, the Wildcats crushed Illinois and it was a great time to be a ‘Cats fan. However, there was one play that had me laughing when I first saw it. A trick play when up 34-14 is usually stupid, but in this case, it was the cherry on top of the sundae.

After an interception by Ibraheim Campbell, the Wildcats, already up 34-14 with 7 minutes to play in the 3rd, start in a weird cluster formation. After a second, the formation turns into a 5 wide shotgun set with trips right. From far away, seems like a normal play out of Northwestern’s playbook. However, the actual play call is a designed trick play to Paul Jorgensen, the offensive lineman. Now, that might seem weird, as offensive linemen are usually ineligible receivers automatically in college football. For those who don’t know about eligibility rules, there must be 7 players on the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. To be an eligible receiver in college, the player in question must be either the widest player on the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball, or lined up at least one yard behind the line of scrimmage (e.g. in the slot, or a running back). If there is an ineligible receiver past the neutral zone (3 yards past the line of scrimmage) when a forward pass is thrown past the neutral zone, then it is an ineligible man downfield penalty. Players numbered 50 to 79 are always ineligible receivers. So any player not in that number range can be an eligible receiver. Notice how Trumpy and Tony Jones are in the slot, and since Jorgenson is number 81, he is an eligible receiver on this play. Also notice that in the trips formation, there are 2 players on the line: Lawrence and Mulroe. In this situation only Lawrence is eligible, as Mulroe doesn’t meet the conditions. Not only that, but Mulroe is number 72, meaning he is automatically ineligible. Mulroe is there because there must be 7 men on the line, and if Trumpy or T. Jones were on the line, then Jorgensen wouldn’t be eligible. So for the ‘Cats to avoid a penalty Mulroe backpedals at the snap of the ball so he doesn’t go past the neutral zone. Trumpy looks for the screen pass while Lawrence and the Joneses run go routes. It’s clear that the ball is meant only for Jorgenson, as the receivers are jogging and not really looking for the ball. The defense, in Man with two safeties, doesn’t even notice Jorgenson, as he looks to be lined up as a tackle. They do catch Mulroe being ineligible and the defender on him switches to double C. Jones. The safeties take the sidelines, as they think there are no receivers in the middle, leaving Jergenson with no man on him wide open in the middle of the field. When I say wide open I mean:

Jorgensen is a full 10 yards away from any defender, and basically trots into the end zone for the score. The defense assumed he was a tackle, so they didn’t think he would run a route, and when he did, they assumed he would incur a penalty once the ball was thrown past the neutral zone. Mick McCall designs a great play to confuse the defense and work around the ineligible receiver rule to really pour salt into Illinois’ wound.

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