Needing 55 yards in one play to beat Hawaii, the conventional thing for UMass to do would’ve been to chuck it deep to four wide receivers. Instead, the Minutemen tossed a short screen to running back Marquis Young, who was immediately snuffed out.
Watch No. 31, linebacker Jahlani Tavai, spot the whole thing before the ball’s even left the QB’s hands and then make the tackle, along with pursuit by lineman Meffy Koloamatangi.
The general idea was apparently to hope the defense was so focused on the Hail Mary that it let Young slip free.
I can’t find any comments by head coach Mark Whipple on what was supposed to happen after that. The Daily Hampshire Gazette says, “Whipple called for a short pass and what he hoped would be a series of laterals.”
A play with a planned lateral can certainly work. Here’s Boise State explaining how its famous version, Circus, worked against Oklahoma:
Usually that kind of thing takes place a little bit downfield, though here’s an example of it working off a screen:
That play by Utah included a quick pitch right away, though, and it’s hard to tell where the UMass pitch was even supposed to happen. Best I can tell, the plan was for Young to cut back to the right and get the ball to the returning WR at the bottom of the screen ...
... but before he could make use of those three offensive linemen (one of whom appears to be limping, which might’ve contributed to the play failing so quickly), he’d already been cut down.
You can also see QB Andrew Ford spacing himself out after making the pass, indicating he might’ve been a throwback option at some point, if things hadn’t ended right away.
And that’s how Hawaii clinched a sweep of the most distant home-and-home series in college football history.