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Best Plays of 2008: the fourth cut

As expected, Brent Vinson's Pick Six Poop Out exits early as a candidate for the Best Play of 2008. After watching the play again, I am beginning to regret that I hadn't noticed earlier that the referee was taken out on the play, which is good for some extra points. Oh, well. Say goodbye:

Now things get interesting. Of the twelve plays remaining in contention, seven feature Eric Berry. How long until we get a field full of Berries? My choice for elimination is below.

DO NOT VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE PLAY -- VOTE FOR THE ONE YOU WANT TO SEE ELIMINATED. The play with the most votes gets cut from the competition.

The remaining candidates:

Joel: I'm going with Eric Berry's Third Interception of the Year. Had Berry landed that leap and scored, this one could have been the best play of the year, but alas, he merely flew like a superhuman and landed like a human. And it was not only a non-conference game, it was Northern Illinois, so there really wasn't much at stake. The play didn't jump start the offense, either, which went backwards and kicked a field goal. On the other hand, Berry did add a dramatic flair by catching the ball one-footed, making that fantastic leap, and stepping on Demetrice Morley's head, so there's that. But compared to the rest of the plays, this one just doesn't make the cut for me.

Will: I'll go with Eric Berry as well, but I'll take EBWACC (Eric Berry's Wake Always Contains Carnage). So much of these for me depend on the in-game situation as well as the play itself, and here's another example of the Vols being essentially out of a game (down 18 late in the third quarter) when this play happened. It's definitely a team effort between the pick and the block(s), and I think at this point in the season our best offensive play was a Berry interception. But it didn't produce any points, it wasn't as crucial to the individual game itself at the time as any of his other plays on this list, and is ultimately just a short (for EB) INT return with a couple great blocks and a guy running around with his helmet off. I'll spend the rest of my Sunday worried that Eric Berry is reading this and coming next for me.

hooper: Ok, here's where my little quirks will cause me to significantly disagree with Joel and Will. I do think that this is an opportune time to pare down the Berry plays; since not all of them can be top-4 material, it's probably time for the more mundane ones (so to speak) to get cleared out. For me, the first one to go should be By Guess Who . . . Eric Berry. This may sound odd, as this play was a pick-six. However, I don't think the mechanics of the play were as special as some of the others, including EBWACC and Eric Berry's Third Interception of the Year. Watching those plays, the one against Vanderbilt was initiated by a very nice pass rush that caused the errant throw, but the rest was simply player positioning: there was nobody on that entire side of the field. The one guy who came close to Berry was the quarterback, who had initially been knocked down by the rush. Unfortunately, the only way for him to catch up was to get up immediately and pursue, which means that the defender who knocked him down did not stick with him (and most likely sat back to watch the play).

Meanwhile, in most of the other interceptions, the transition from defense to return blocking is a thing of sheer beauty. Watch EBWACC and 3rd Interception in particular, and it's like the defense has transitioned to blocking mode before Berry even touches the ball. With EBWACC in particular, the defense does an absolutely fantastic job of blocking properly when Berry changes direction and crosses the field. That's usually when you get block-in-the-back penalties as the defenders are turned with their backs to the interceptor and don't recognize the angles quickly enough.

In short, Berry's part in the interceptions are very similar, but the actions of the team were far different. I think the team had more responsibility and were more spectacular in the other interception plays. And actually, if you swap "Berry" with "Morley", By Guess Who is effectively identical to Rout!.