Strategy Guide
Anatomy of a Money Play: The Rooksie Option

It’s no fun to play against someone who takes advantage of glitches or bugs to seal a victory. You all know the type.

But then there are tactics that fall into a hazy ethical ground. They’re not exactly cheating, but something about them doesn’t quite feel right. In football games, one of the clearest examples is the money play. In this article, we’ll take a look at one of these plays that you’ll want to watch out for in NCAA Football 13.

I like to play a pretty straightforward and balanced game of football, so when fourth down rolls around, I don’t usually mess around with fakes. But one play has always fascinated me: the fake punt rooksie. Based on the old fumblerooski, it’s a fake punt that involves a direct snap to your backup halfback, who then hands the ball through the legs of your starting free safety. Whenever I tried this play, I was stuffed immediately. But I was toying around in practice mode and found that this play is absolutely diabolical if you run it in a different way: as an option.

After the ball is handed to the free safety, the play design indicates that that player will then run through the line in an attempt to gain yards. But you’ll notice that as the ball is handed to the free safety, the strong safety (who’s also in the backfield) begins circling back behind the free safety and running around to the right side of the field, just like the trailing man on an option.

If you treat the strong safety as your pitch man, this play is nearly unstoppable against a base punt return defense. As soon as the free safety possesses the ball, start running wide right. It won’t be long before the right-side gunner on the return team notices your trick and begins to attack the ball carrier. But he’s alone on an island and has to stop both the free and strong safeties – exactly the situation you’d like to see on an option run.

The gunner will almost always attack the free safety with the ball and ignore the strong safety trailing behind. Simply wait until the gunner is about to tackle the free safety and then pitch the ball to the strong safety. The gunner will tackle your free safety but take himself out of the play, leaving a lot of daylight for the strong safety to run with the ball.

I took a video of myself running this play as Michigan – unedited, so you can see what it looks like when the play fails as well. You’ll notice that I subbed in Denard Robinson at free safety to illustrate how hard this play is to stop when you’re dealing with a speedy ball carrier. It’s a dirty trick, but don’t think your opponents won’t try it.

When playing against the CPU, there’s really only one point at which this play can be stopped. If the player you have lined up at right guard loses his battle against a linebacker quickly, then the linebacker will knife into the backfield and blow up the play before it even gets started. This is what happens in the video below for two consecutive plays starting at about the 1:17 mark, But if this doesn’t happen, the rooksie option produces 10-15 yards on a regular basis, as you can see.

Obviously, against any kind of “safe” punt return defense, this play won’t go very far. Against a conventional punt defense, though, it’s one of the most reliable yardage gainers I’ve ever seen.

NCAA Football 13 Videos