It seemed like a routine play when sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer took the snap and handed the ball off to sophomore running back Trestan Ebner late in the second quarter of the Bears’ win over UTSA on Saturday.
When Brewer took off down the sideline, however, the UTSA defense was caught off guard. Ebner swung the ball to sophomore receiver Jared Atkinson, who threw the second pass of his career to Brewer for a 36-yard gain.
The play had shades of the 2018 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles’ trick play, the “Philly Special,” in which quarterback Nick Foles caught a touchdown pass on a fourth-and-goal in the second quarter of Super Bowl LII.
Baylor head coach Matt Rhule said their play was a little different than the “Philly Special,” but the team was familiar with it because they ran the same play in a 38-9 win over Kansas on Nov. 4, 2017.
“Not quite the ‘Philly Special,'” Rhule said, “But it was something similar. We ran that last year against Oklahoma State and it didn’t work, and then we ran it against Kansas and it did work. That’s just something we always have in. [UTSA] is in man-to-man and when you’re in man-to-man, the only guy you don’t have a man for is the quarterback. It’s just sort of play we knew we had there.”
Atkinson and Brewer combined to gain 20 yards for the Bears last year, so Atkinson’s career passing stats now stand at 2-for-2 for 56 yards.
Brewer, who revealed that the play is called “raven,” said the biggest takeaway is the Bears got 36 yards on the play.
“It’s fun. We got a good amount of yardage on that one, so it helped us out,” Brewer said. “I just had to worry about not dropping it.”
Rhule said the idea for the play came from an unexpected place. Senior offensive consultant and former offensive line coach George DeLeone was the inspiration, according to Rhule.
“A very special man in our program is George DeLeone,” Rhule said. “He was leaving to go have surgery on Wednesday — like serious surgery. If anybody knows George, he stayed through Tuesday practice. Before he left, he was like, ‘hey, don’t forget, throw back to the quarterback.’ When you talk about toughness, you talk about dedication, you talk about all-in. That’s George. So it just seemed appropriate.”
Right before the back-to-the-quarterback trick play, the Bears had gone for an onside kick after scoring a touchdown. Rhule said the team was in full agreement when they decided to go for the surprise onside kick.
“We did that because we thought it was there,” Rhule said. “Part of that comes from having real alignment. That’s one of the things we try to do. I don’t want to have an offense. I don’t want to have a defense. I want to have a team. I told our defense, ‘hey we’re going to have a surprise [onside kick]. If they don’t get it, I expect you guys to be excited to go play,’ and they were.”
Calling plays throughout the game starkly contrasted the offense in the win over ACU on Sept. 1. The Bears rushed for just 91 yards against the Roadrunners after posting 295 rushing yards against the Wildcats.
Rhule said the differences in offensive design can be attributed to each opposing team having different strengths on the defensive end.
“There might have been some games where I would’ve got to the fourth quarter and run the ball every single play,” Rhule said. “With what they were doing, that was going to be hard. We couldn’t even get the ball in from the one. Every game’s a little bit different, but I told our guys going into this game that we’re going to empty everything we had.”
The Bears will have a chance to showcase more of their offensive creativity when they face Duke at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at McLane Stadium.