The difference in the chances of making a sub-20-yard field goal and a 47-yard field goal is, well, quite stark. With 1:25 left in the game and Cal at the 30-yard line down 2 points, offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin knew the offense just had to get the ball close enough to where kicker Greg Thomas would feel comfortable knocking a game-winner through the uprights in a hostile stadium.
Cal sent out an 11-personnel package, meaning there is one running back and one tight end (a 12 personnel is one running back and two tight ends). They lined up in a unique fashion, though, as the tight end lined up as a slot receiver, rather than adjacent to the offensive line, as is typical. The formation saw wide receivers Jordan Duncan and Nikko Remigio as the left and right outside receivers, while tight end McCallan Castles and wide receiver Kekoa Crawford played in the left and right slot positions.
Quarterback Chase Garbers had running back Christopher Brown Jr. lined up on the left of him and his assignment on this play call was to pick up the leftmost pressure coming towards Garbers’ blind side.
Washington, aiming to match Cal’s speed, used a nickel defense, meaning they removed a linebacker (giving them two) and added a defensive back (giving them five). While they did not show any pre-snap signs of pressure, the Huskies sent a 6-man pass rush at Garbers, as they blitzed both linebackers and the slot cornerback lined up across from Castles. The blitz was disguised, however, as the right defensive tackle ended up dropping into coverage while the slot cornerback waited a second before running after Garbers.
Essentially, this meant all three of Cal’s wide receivers were left in one-on-one man coverage, while Washington safety Myles Bryant came down from deep to guard Castles by himself. On the left side, away from the play, Duncan ran a 5-yard curl while Castles ran a corner route.
Where the magic happened, though, was in the four-man game on the right side between Remigio and Crawford against the respective two defensive backs, Elijah Molden and Keith Taylor. Essentially, Baldwin’s goal in this play design was to have Remigio set a “pick” on the inside defender, Molden, which would open up the chance for Crawford to catch the ball and turn toward the middle of the field. Both defenders playing off-coverage (meaning there were 5 to 10 yards of space between them and their receivers) pre-snap was key to this play being successful.
Crawford, like Duncan on the left side, ran a short 5-yard curl, which allowed Garbers to get the ball out quickly against the heavy pressure. Remigio ran a 5-yard out route, cutting outside right as Crawford curled.
Cal’s offensive line and Brown Jr. all picked up their blocks, allowing Garbers just enough time to get a throw off. Garbers perfectly delivered a ball right into Crawford’s chest and instead of immediately turning back upfield, Crawford ran toward the middle of the field and around Remigio, who was blocking Molden. By the time the ball was caught, both Remigio and Molden were in between Crawford and Taylor, thus making it almost impossible for Taylor to tackle Crawford right away.
Eventually, Taylor caught up to Crawford from behind, but not before Crawford galloped for a 27-yard gain to bring the Bears nearly to the goal line, setting up a chip shot field goal for Greg Thomas that would bring an end to Washington’s 15-game home win streak.
Shailin Singh covers football. Contact him at