“I mean, have you ever seen him get caught? I’ve not seen anybody catch him.”
These words are courtesy of Cal offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, talking about none other than the Bears’ current starting quarterback, Chase Garbers.
Garbers, in line with Musgrave’s praise, is the most prolific rushing quarterback in Cal history — no, really. Garbers, with still eight games to go in his senior campaign, is 37 yards and one touchdown away from breaking all of the Bears’ quarterback rushing records. He is currently tied for the most rushing touchdowns by a Cal quarterback and is 36 yards away from tying the all-time rushing yards record. Right now, those records are held by quarterbacks Dave Penhall and Joe Kapp, respectively. On a side note, Penhall logged only one season with positive rushing yards and finished his Cal career with -85 rushing yards and nine touchdowns (he never ran for a touchdown during a season in which he had positive rushing yards, go figure).
So, when you have the Bears’ top statistical rushing quarterback of all time, it behooves you to use his strengths to your advantage. On Saturday, that’s exactly what Musgrave did. With the game on the line, and on a third-and-long, Musgrave dialed up No. 7. What you see above is a variation of a popular run play entitled “counter” — getting its name from the counter steps and motion that typically come from the running back before they follow a guard and a tackle “pulling” into the hole.
When the pullers are the guard and tackle, the play is dubbed G/T counter, but when the tackle is replaced with a tight end or fullback, a popular naming system is G/H counter — with the H representing the tight end/fullback. Counter falls under a greater umbrella of “gap” runs (which attack a specific spot on the defense, as opposed to a general “zone” run).
Georgia Southern running Same-Side G/H Counter with the Tackle Cutting Backside B-Gap pic.twitter.com/4virDDCOFj
— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) July 19, 2021
Here is a classic version of G/H counter, and when we look at Cal’s touchdown Saturday, there is a very similar action to it.
We’ve said it before & we’ll say it again, can’t count the Bears out! @ChaseGarbers runs it in to tie it up with under 3 minutes left to play.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) September 26, 2021
So, G/H counter is the style of the play, but Cal did it with one big-time change-up: The quarterback kept the ball. There are a whole host of reasons why this play worked, so breaking it down is a lot of fun. First and foremost, Washington was dedicated to stopping running back Damien Moore on Saturday, and despite ripping off a few big plays, the talented sophomore was held to just 3.7 yards per carry on 18 attempts. Garbers, on the other hand, managed to get 4.4 yards per carry on 16 attempts. Seeing the numbers was easy, but putting it all together took some thought.
The Bears came out in a formation that stems from the West Coast offense (this name is from the Shanahan tree, but it stands to reason that there is some crossover) “Bunch Right,” with the running back initially split out wide.
— coach stew (@jessedstew) September 29, 2021
The play is different, but the formation is the same (only Garbers is in the gun). Moore is then directed back into the formation, queuing the defense to set its front following the motion, while Garbers prepares to snap the ball.
Upon the snap, Garbers fakes it to Moore (Moore was never an option to get the ball, just a decoy), who then flies out to the flats. Garbers carries out his fake then tucks the ball and follows No. 60 Brian Driscoll (who kicks out the UW defensive end) and No. 85 Jake Tonges (who flies up to block the weak-side middle linebacker). Both pulling blockers execute their assignments, and the only two defenders who can stop Garbers from reaching the end zone are the two safeties.
However, both of them take a poor angle after they both try to meet Garbers on the edge, not realizing the play is designed to go up the middle. Garbers cuts it up, and in seconds, the game is tied and will go to overtime. Just don’t ask what happens after that.