The last few minutes of Alabama-LSU were filled with preposterous events -- a fumble to give LSU an easy field goal to take a 13-10 lead, a kick out of bounds to give Alabama position to strike back to send it to OT -- but those were topped by the first play in overtime. The Crimson Tide dialed up a trick play that gave a big ol' fat guy the ball in space. It worked, as he barreled down to just a yard away from the end zone, leading to the winning touchdown.
Let us revel in the glory of a big man running with the ball:
At first glance, Alabama has lined up with a conventional offensive line with no tight ends, but all of a sudden, the guy who looks like the left tackle -- 304-pound offensive lineman Brandon Greene -- runs downfield. He finds space in the seam, Blake Sims hits him with a pass, and he keeps trucking. Wait, isn't that a penalty for illegal man downfield?
Of course, Alabama was not lined up with a conventional offensive line.
At the snap, an offense has to have seven players on the line of scrimmage. Out of those seven, only the two closest to the sidelines are eligible to catch a pass. The five in between them are not.
Look at the bottom of Alabama's formation. You see two players on the line. By rule, the one closest to the out-of-bounds line is eligible, while the other is not. The one who isn't is No. 74, Cam Robinson, Alabama's left tackle. Although he looks like he's split out as a receiver, he's "covered" by the receiver below him, and therefore ineligible to catch a pass.
Going up the formation, we see RB Jalston Fowler, who's a few steps back from the line of scrimmage (and therefore eligible), and then the five "offensive linemen" on the line. The one on top who looks like a left tackle is not "covered" -- both receivers to his left are standing off the line -- and therefore is an eligible receiver as a tight end.
This is a tackle-eligible play. The tackle in question is Greene, and he's going to win Bama the game.
For his part, LSU LB Lamar Louis notices he's lined up against an ineligible offensive lineman and tries to alert his teammates:
Out wide, Robinson makes a big show of pretending to draw his QB's attention:
What he does doesn't matter at all. Earlier this year, Arkansas State had an ineligible receiver pretend to have a heart attack. He's a decoy trying to create distraction.
Louis, the LB assigned to guard him, doesn't buy it at all, backing off to defend players who can actually catch the ball. Unfortunately, on the other side, LSU is in trouble:
As soon as Greene, the TE masquerading as an LT, bursts up field, he's gone. Nobody thinks to cover him. It helps that the play features three vertical routes, something that already stresses defenses, but the formation deceives LSU into ignoring Greene for about a half-second, just long enough for him to get wide open.
For what it's worth, Greene is pretty much the perfect person for the job. The No. 12 offensive tackle in the nation out of high school per 247 Sports, he found himself behind all of Alabama's other ridiculously talented linemen, so he played his freshman year as a blocking tight end. He hoped to start at left tackle with Cyrus Kouandjio drafted into the NFL, but was usurped by Robinson, the true freshman who was ranked as the No. 1 tackle in the country.
Greene switched his jersey number from 58 to 89 (numbers between 50-70 are automatically ineligible) and tried his hand as a tight end again. But unlike most tight ends, he's 6'5 and 304 pounds, making his lining up at left tackle completely believable. But he's comfortable running up the field and making a catch.
He did just that, carrying defensive backs not used to tackling 300-pounders and making it all the way to the 1-yard line. Some penalties pushed Alabama back, but the Tide still scored for the win.