Football | Notebook: Flea flickers, Finnegan, fourth-down decisions
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 07:10
Trailing 22-7 and in need of a big play late in the third quarter against Williams on Saturday, the Jumbos attempted a flea flicker.
Step one went well: Senior quarterback John Dodds converted a screen pass to sophomore tailback Zach Trause. Step two did not: Trause’s return throw sailed over Dodds’ head, leaving a loose ball in the backfield to be picked up by the Ephs.
If anyone had a shot to execute the play, it was Trause, who was recruited to Tufts as a quarterback.
But what had worked several times in practice did not carry over to the game.
“The thing about trick plays is, if we had hit it, we’d be geniuses right now,” head coach Jay Civetti said. “You have to have the stomach, and you have to have the confidence and trust in your team to make that call.”
The miscue was one of many deflating moments for the Jumbos in front of a large Parents Weekend crowd this past weekend at Zinman Field, where Tufts turned the ball over five times and fell, 25-7.
While the flea flicker was a risky call from the Jumbos’ own 30-yard line, Civetti does not regret the decision.
“You have trick plays in a game either because you’re looking for something exciting to do or you see an opportunity,” Civetti said. “When I told [offensive coordinator] Frank [Hauser] to make the call, I had a ton of confidence in our defense that if something went wrong our defense would stop them. And sure enough, our defense stopped them. I’d call it again.”
The Jumbos have been searching for a big play all season — their longest play from scrimmage in their first five games has been 29 yards — and on Saturday they turned to trickery to try to make it happen.
Still, they would rather find ways to break big plays while sticking with the short-yardage strategy that has been successful.
“You don’t really want to have to run a play like that because of the high risk,” senior tri-captain wide receiver Dylan Haas said. “We need big plays on our normal plays and schemes. We need to turn a three-yard slant into a 60-yard touchdown.”
Running the Wildcat
Civetti is looking to utilize Trause’s quarterback experience as much as possible. Against Williams, they debuted a Wildcat formation with Trause in the shotgun and freshman running back Justin Weaver as his pitch option.
The Jumbos ran the Wildcat with limited success, as Weaver and Trause each averaged around two yards per carry.
Even more than they need big plays through the air, the Jumbos desperately need to find a way to establish the ground game. On Saturday, Tufts was out-rushed 97-30 and has now been out-rushed 1,197-247 on the season.
The Jumbos hope that, with a little refining, the Wildcat will help that cause.
“We’re trying to put our best talent on the field,” Civetti said. “If you’ve got Justin Weaver and Zach Trause in the backfield, that’s pretty good. They both can’t play at tailback [at once], so let’s put them both in there to do some other things.”
Placing Trause at quarterback also takes some of the weight off Dodds’ right arm, which has thrown 226 times in five games. Dodds did line up at wide receiver a couple of times on Saturday when Tufts used the Wildcat, but he wasn’t planting any monster blocks on defensive backs.
“The number one thing coach Hauser told me to do was not to get hurt,” Dodds said.
The Finnegan factor
At wide receiver, senior Marty Finnegan has always done all the little things right.
“When we watch the film, he’s always harassing DBs, he’s taking guys off their feet and being extremely physical and aggressive,” Haas said. “He’s been making a huge impact. It just hasn’t really gotten much notice.”
On Saturday, though, he did the big things, catching seven passes for 91 yards and his first career touchdown. His previous career high was 39 receiving yards.