What Is a Fumblerooski in Football? A Trick Play Guide

The TCU quarterback looks to his left before the ball is snapped.

Keeping the defense guessing in football is one of the best ways to put points on the board. Offenses do this in a number of ways, with some being more common than others. One of the less common ways is by employing the “fumblerooski.”

So, what is a fumblerooski in football?

A “fumblerooski” is a trick play in football where the quarterback intentionally places the ball on the ground after the snap. A lineman then picks up the ball and runs with it, catching the defense off guard. It’s a rare and deceptive tactic used to gain an unexpected advantage.

While the fumblerooski isn’t allowed in most leagues anymore, it has created some iconic moments over the years. We’ll cover some of these moments, the origins of the fumblerooski, and its variations throughout this article, so keep reading!

What Is a Fumblerooski?

A fumblerooski is a trick play in football that involves intentional fumbling of the ball. The play begins with the quarterback discreetly placing the ball on the ground after receiving it from the center. This action is designed to confuse the defense, allowing another offensive player to pick up the ball and run in the opposite direction.

The main goal of a fumblerooski is to catch the defense off-guard and gain as many yards as possible. This is achieved by having the offensive players act as if they are running a regular play while one player stealthily grabs the intentionally fumbled ball and runs in the other direction.

The defense, focused on stopping the initial play, may not notice the ball being picked up and carried in the opposite direction.

As with any fumble in football, there is always a risk involved in executing the play. If the defense catches on and overwhelms the offensive player carrying the ball, the play’s potential can quickly turn negative. However, if successfully carried out, the fumblerooski can lead to significant yardage or even a touchdown.

Fumblerooski Origin

The origins of the fumblerooski date back to the early days of the sport. The play is credited to pioneering coach John Heisman, who is known for his innovative approach to football.

The fumblerooski involves the quarterback deliberately placing or leaving the ball on the ground upon receiving it from the center, technically fumbling it. The backs then run to one side, deceiving the defense into following them, while a lineman picks up the ball and runs in the opposite direction.

An early documented use of the fumblerooski occurred in 1930 when University of Tennessee quarterback Bobby Dodd called the play in a game against Florida. However, it was not until the 1984 Orange Bowl that the fumblerooski gained national attention.

In that game, the University of Nebraska faced off against the University of Oklahoma. It was during this game that Nebraska’s right guard, Dean Steinkuhler, famously executed the fumblerooski for a 19-yard touchdown run, garnering widespread attention for the play.

The fumblerooski continued to be used sporadically throughout the 1980s and beyond. In 1986, the play was successfully executed by several college teams, further contributing to its reputation as an unpredictable and daring maneuver.

The success of the fumblerooski largely depends on the element of surprise and the precise execution of each player’s role in the play.

Fumblerooski Rule

The legality and usage of the fumblerooski vary depending on the governing body. Within the NCAA, the fumblerooski is considered illegal due to their rules regarding forward fumbles. This means that the trick play is not allowed in intercollegiate football games, as it involves the intentional fumbling of the ball.

On the other hand, the NFHS permits the fumblerooski in high school football games. There are guidelines that must be followed to avoid penalties and loss of yardage, such as ensuring direct handoffs and not forward fumbles.

While successfully executing a fumblerooski can result in significant yardage gains, it is a risky and complex play that requires precise execution and coordination among the offensive players.

Is the Fumblerooski Legal?

In the NFL, the fumblerooski is deemed an intentional forward fumble, rendering it illegal.

In collegiate football, the fumblerooski was declared illegal by the NCAA in 1992. High school football followed suit, with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) banning the play starting with the 2006 season.

Typically, the fumblerooski occurs when the offensive team needs to gain extra yards for a first down and the defensive team least expects a trick play. An offensive lineman usually scoops up the ball and advances, much to the confusion of the opponents.

It’s important to note that for a fumblerooski to be deemed legal, the quarterback must not intentionally fumble the ball. Instead, a subtle handoff to another player is allowed, as it is deceitful but considered within the rules.

One memorable example of a legal fumblerooski in the NFL involved the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton. In this instance, Newton cleverly handed the ball to Richie Brockel, who scored a touchdown. Since there was no intentional fumble in this play, it remained within the bounds of the rules.

Is the Fumblerooski Used in the NFL?

The play, once employed by NFL teams, has become less common due to its high risk and the potential for incurring penalties such as an illegal shift.

In the past, NFL teams like the Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys have utilized the fumblerooski during games, often to deceive their opponents and confuse the defense. The NFC East has also seen teams experiment with the fumblerooski play.

For example, the Washington Football Team ran a fumblerooski against the Cowboys in a 2020 game, where running back J.D. McKissic was handed the football under his legs by quarterback Alex Smith.

Offensive linemen play a crucial role in executing the fumblerooski, as they must create a convincing facade of a regular play while also protecting the hidden ball. The success of this trick play relies heavily on the element of surprise and the ability of the offense to effectively conceal the ball from the opposing team.

Despite its historical use in the NFL, the fumblerooski is now considered a high-risk play with limited success. It is unlikely to see a resurgence in the league due to a combination of rule changes and the advancement of defensive strategies.

Thus, while the fumblerooski remains an intriguing part of football lore, its practical application within the NFL has significantly diminished.

What Is a Bouncerooski?

A football lying on a football field.

The Bouncerooski is similar to the fumblerooski but involves a bounce pass instead of a fumble. With the Bouncerooski, the quarterback pretends to throw a screen pass to deceive the defense.

The quarterback then proceeds to bounce the ball off the ground toward the intended receiver. Since the defense thinks it’s an incomplete pass, they stop pursuing the play. The receiver, aware of the trick, picks up the ball and continues down the field.

This play has been used by coaches like Ron Rivera and players like Alex Smith, who are known for employing trick plays during games. The Bouncerooski relies on the element of surprise, and when executed correctly, it can catch the defense off-guard and lead to significant 

What Is a Bumerooski?

A bumerooski is a trick play in football that involves deception and confusion on the part of the offense. Named after its creator and famed football coach, “Bum” Phillips, the play requires an offensive player, typically the quarterback, to discreetly place the ball on the ground.

As the defense is led to believe the play is moving in one direction, an unnoticed offensive player picks up the ball and runs in the opposite direction in an attempt to gain as many yards as possible.

In the bumerooski, the offense tries its best to keep the ball hidden from the defensive players. This involves the quarterback acting as if they’re handing off the ball or passing it when in reality they have set it on the ground for another offensive player to retrieve.

The rest of the offensive team plays a key role in selling the deception by carrying out their assignments as if it were a normal play.

However, over time, the use of bumerooski has dwindled in popularity and is now mostly seen in amateur and recreational games. The play was deemed unsportsmanlike and eventually banned at various levels of football, from high school to professional leagues.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is a Hidden Ball Trick in Football?

A hidden ball trick, also known as the fumblerooski, is a trick play in football where an offensive player, typically the quarterback, intentionally places the ball on the ground. This maneuver is designed to deceive the defense, as another offensive player picks up the live ball and moves in the opposite direction to advance it down the field. 

This play requires excellent coordination between the quarterback and the rest of the team, including the offensive linemen.

What Is a Flea Flicker?

The flea flicker is another trick play used in football to catch the opposing defense off guard. In this play, the quarterback hands off the ball to a running back or another player behind him, who then laterals the ball back to the quarterback. With the defense focusing on the initial handoff, the quarterback has a chance to create a big passing play downfield.

What Is Dink and Dunk in Football?

Dink and dunk is an offensive football strategy that involves the quarterback making several short passes in order to move the ball down the field. This approach requires precision passing and excellent ball control. Dink and dunk is often used to exploit mismatches between wide receivers and defensive players, or to wear down the defense over time.

Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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