Offensive Specialist FAQ by jeremyw1976

Version: 1.0 | Updated: 11/17/03 | Printable Version

-- NCAA Football 2004 for PS2 - Offensive Specialist FAQ --
-- By Jeremy Watson: e-mail: --
-- Version 1.0, November 14, 2003 --

How to Read this FAQ:
-->       Note of Interest
***       Absolute Must Read
<Q>       Most Asked Questions
<update>  Changes from the last version
<Tip #>   These tips will improve your offense no matter your skill!
\/\/\/\/  New Section

<Q> --> So what is in this FAQ? <--
What should I do on 3rd down and 6 at my own 35-yard line? Should I punt or go
for it? What formation works the best for my players? If you've every asked
these questions during a game, this FAQ might be worth a look. For the most part
offense is something I like to leave up to the individual. I don't think that
any play is a bad play, just bad execution. There are strategies however that
will improve your chances of moving the chains or getting a quick score to tie
the game. Read on and begin to believe in your offense!


*** Offense in General on NCAA 2004 ***
First off you need to know what controls do what. Familiarize yourself with the
controls so they almost seem second nature to you. Knowing what is available to
you and how to accomplish it can mean the difference between 28 points and 7
points. Here are some examples of using the controls to your advantage:

*** General Tips ***
<Tip #1> *** Coaches Camera ***
As with defense the Coaches Camera can help you decide what you are going to do
after you break the huddle. Press and hold down the R2 button to see the entire
field of play and what play you have called. This is helpful to remember what
play you called and also to see what the play is in case you decide to change it
at the line of scrimmage. I recommend using this against the CPU on every play
because it helps you get a mental picture of how the play should unfold. Against
a human opponent, press and hold the L2 button to see the entire field, but not
give away your play. As you play more try not to use the Coaches Camera as much
so you'll be able to play against human opponents more effectively. During
online play go ahead and use the Coaches Camera, the other player won't be able
to see your play.

<Tip #2> *** Hot Routes ***
If you press triangle pre-snap, you can bring up a hot route menu and audible
your WRs to do different things instead of the designed play. After you press
triangle, press the button of the WR for which you want to change assignments
and then finally press one of the following buttons to assign them a new task
for the play.

Button Pressed     Hot Routes      Notes

L2                 Block Left      This will be a Drag Left for WRs
R2                 Block Right     This will be a Drag Right for WRs
->                 Out Right
<-                 Out Left
Down               Curl
Up                 Fly Pattern

Stay aware of your pre-snap options and use them to your advantage. If you
suspect a corner blitz, maybe you want to hot route your RB to stay and block.
If the defense stacks one side of the line, maybe you want to hot route your TE
to block and then bring him in motion across the formation to give you some
added protection. Sometimes the play you called is not exactly what you wanted,
for example, you might have 2 WRs in the same area or draw double coverage on
your #1 guy. Don't overuse Hot Routes, but if you get confused use the Coaches
Camera to see what play you have called.

<Q> --> Why can't I use Hot Routes right out of the huddle? <--
Well you are probably playing online. Online play forces your team to be at
line and set before hot routes can be used. This feature was added to stop
people from abusing hot routes during online play. You can hot route right away
late in the game if you are way behind.

<Tip #3> *** Motion ***
Pre-Snap motion is probably the most important thing to learn how to use
effectively. Motion can create mismatches as well as give added blocking for a
running play or protection for a passing play. Motion also gets your player on
the move and makes the bump and run style defense less effective. You can also
learn a lot about what the defense is doing by using motion. For example, say
you bring your outside WR all the way across the formation and the CB follows
him. You now know that the defense is in man-to-man coverage on your WR. If you
bring your WR across the formation and the CB doesn't follow him then you are
most likely looking at a zone defense of some sort.

In order to use the Coaches Camera, Hot Routes, and Motion effectively you
need to break the huddle as soon as possible. Since college football only has a
25-second play clock, you'll need as much of that time as possible so you can
make adjustments at the line. To do this you'll need to know your playbook
pretty well and you'll need to start thinking about your next play before the
current play is finished. This is what I call forward thinking. You should have
something in your mind for each of the following situations: What happens if I
gain a few yards? What happens is I lose a few yards? What happens if I stay
put? This will help you call your plays quickly and give you the time you'll
need to make pre-snap adjustments.

<Tip #4> *** Pulling Down / Rollout ***
Believe it or not, things actually happen after the snap. Being able to pull
the ball down and run with it when all of your WRs are covered can make the
difference between a sack and a minor gain. The default button for this is L2.
The best way to keep this as a quick option is to keep your left index finger
over the button and if you get into trouble, you can press it and then hold X
down to sprint out of there.

Another thing to be aware of is the quick rollout to buy time to pass. If you
feel comfortable with pulling the ball down try this. Press L2 to pull the ball
down immediately after the snap and then rollout out left or right (depending on
the play). Then once you are out of the pocket, press L2 again to bring the
passing menus back up. You'd be surprised how much time this can buy you to
throw the ball.

<Tip #5> *** Situational Substitutions ***
Just as with defense, you can setup your team to substitute specialized players
into the game based on formation. Maybe you have a big blocking TE that you
want in the game in your best running formation or maybe you have a great
receiving RB who you want in the game for Shotgun formations. You can set this
up in game or before the game and this can give you even more options
offensively to create mismatches.

<Q> *** Should I switch to my WR while the ball is in the air? ***
Many gamers will tell you that you are crazy not to switch control to your WR
while the ball is in the air and try to make the catch yourself. I disagree with
them. If you throw the ball correctly, your WR with usually outplay the defender
for the catch better than you could ever hope for. The only exception to the
rule is on the deep passes. If you decide to throw a deep lob pass then might
need to take control of the WR while the ball is in the air to give him a boost
(O button), jump and catch (triangle button), or move him into position. If you
find yourself having trouble with those lob passes, try to throw better medium
power throws and let the WR make the play. Most of the time, you should throw to
a wide-open WR to avoid having to "click on".

<Q> *** My QB's completion percentage is so low, what should I do? ***
<Tip #5> *** Making a Good Throw ***
Here are the top tips for making a good throw even with a weak QB:
1.) Try not to throw on the run, especially not backwards
2.) Step into your throw a bit (tap the controller forward)
3.) Use the right amount of touch (those buttons are pressure sensitive)
4.) Remember a RB won't be able to catch a bullet as well as a WR
5.) Time your throws (watch for the WR to make his cut, then throw)

Making a good throw will bring that percentage up in no time! A percentage in
the low to mid 60's is very good for the higher levels of difficulty.

<Q> --> Should I use the Pump Fake? <--
You can pump fake a throw by pressing R2 while the passing icons are up. I
don't think this helps you out much. I've never seen a safety or corner blow a
coverage because of it, but it sure does make the game more interesting. Some
players like to use this option when running an out and up pass route because
it makes the safeties cheat up a step or two and you might be able to burn them
over the top. During play versus a human opponent who controls the safeties
manually, this might actually work well for the out and up routes.

<Q> *** My option play always ends up badly or I fumble, what can I do? ***
While running with the ball, it is important to remember that L2 is stiff-arm
and R2 is pitch the ball back to the nearest player. A lot of Madden players
think that R2 is stiff arm and end up pitching the ball accidentally (okay, not
a lot of Madden players, :) just me...) which causes turnovers. As for running
the option, you need to make sure you have a clear path to pitch the ball and
your RB is no more than 4 yards away from you. If it doesn't look right, just
take the hit.

<Q> *** What are the best moves to use while running the ball? ***
<Tip #6> *** Making Moves on Moves ***
Here are some tips to improve your running skills:
1.) If the defender has the angle on you, use the stiff arm (L2)
2.) If the defender's angle is too sharp or wide, use a juke (L1/R1)
3.) In traffic, tap X to break more tackles
4.) Try to run north and south, running outside doesn't work as good
5.) Use the spin move (O) to avoid running out of bounds, but be careful not to
use the spin move in traffic because of fumbles
6.) Tap X and push hard forward after you are hit to gain a few extra yards
7.) Don't hold X right away after getting the ball, the defense also gets a
speed burst every time you hold X. Instead wait for the play to develop and
sprint (X) for holes only.
8.) #1 rule - Be patient and wait for your blockers!
9.) Get to the line early and wait for the center to point out the blocking
scheme to the other players. This believe it or not will get you better
blocking as well as run the clock

<Q> *** What audibles should I have? ***
This is entirely up to you, but generally speaking you should put your best
plays as audibles. Since most running plays are the same, I recommend putting
your favorite running play in. This should be your only running play. The rest
should be passing plays and one for Max Punt Protect if you want it. The reason
for passing plays is it gives you almost an unlimited amount of audibles when
you consider hot routes. I recommend having 1 pass play that is quick for use
against the blitz and 2 pass plays for use against the zone. You'll find out
more about defensive recognition and how to choose these plays later on in the


*** Reading the Defense ***
Believe it or not, there are ways to know what your opponent's defense is going
to do before you snap the ball. How? The keys are formation, motion, and plenty
of time at the line of scrimmage before the snap. For example, you line up in
an I Formation and your opponent lines up in a 4-3 defense and as you come to
the line of scrimmage you see the safety inch up towards the line just a little.
You know your opponent is in a bump and run coverage. If the safety moves up
more, almost to the line, then it is most likely going to be a safety blitz.
Don't pay much attention to the LBs because sometimes a LB will inch towards the
line and then drop back into a zone. The safeties are a good way to read bump
and run as well as the safety blitz.

Another way to read the defense is to use motion. Motion in NCAA College
Football 2004 will tell you a lot. For example, if you bring a split out WR in
motion and the CB follows him you can be sure that this WR will be covered man-
to-man. If a defender doesn't follow your WR, then you know that defender is
either blitzing or in a zone defense. You can then run your play as called or
make adjustments at the line. Motion not only gets your guy moving, but also can
create nice mismatches in coverage.

<Q> *** The CPU seems to know where I am going to run the ball and always stacks
that side of the line. What can I do to trick the CPU? ***

As you play, you might notice that the CPU seems to always stack the side of the
line that you want to run to. Is the CPU cheating? Actually I have noticed that
the CPU reacts to your tendencies. If you like to run to the strong side most
of the time, the CPU will pick up on it and stack that side of the run. No the
CPU isn't cheating, it is reacting to your play calling. Mix up your play
calling and run more than 2 or 3 running plays to confuse the defense.

*** Reacting to the defense ***
After the snap of the ball, you'll have to be aware of the blitz. If you don't
have enough blocking, you'll have to hit your hot receiver quickly. You should
always leave yourself a hot receiver who is running a quick route. This is your
blitz option in case you need to throw in a hurry. A lot of good players will
pick a play and hot route one of their WRs into a short route and force them to
become the hot receiver. In case your opponent is bringing a heavy blitz, try
throwing a deep lob pass against a more than likely man-to-man coverage. If you
perfect reaction to the heavy blitz, online play will be a snap for your

If the play is a pass play and you decide not to go to your hot receiver, make
sure you know your checkoffs. You should have a good idea from reading the
defense who will be open or at least in man-to-man coverage. Rank each of the
WRs running a route in order of who you think will be open (this takes a little
experience). I usually look at the quicker routes first then shift to the deeper
routes. If you get to your 3rd or 4th WR and no one is open, you might want to
take off and run. Gauge yourself on how many WRs you can check before you feel
the pressure. You should learn to have an internal clock that will alarm you
when pressure is coming. Some players can even keep an eye on their QB while
checking off. Use whatever works best for you, the timing method works the best
for me.

If you are trying to run, make sure to let your blocking develop. I don't know
how many people I have played with who run before the blockers get into position
and it ends up costing them 5-10 yards each time they do it.

Learn when to roll out and when to step up into the pocket. I usually look to
roll out every time I go back to pass. It gives you the most time and still
gives you the option to run. If the blitz is coming from the outside though,
you'll have to step up in the pocket. Let the blitzing players overrun your
tackles and step up into the pocket that is formed. You'll have less time to
pass, but at least you'll avoid the sure sack. Here are some pictures that
illustrate when to rollout and when to step up.

Rollout                                  Step Up

          X                                               X
DL      X |X X  X                        DL    X  X X  X  |
         ||| |  |                             /   | |  | /
OL       O O O  O                        OL   |   O O  |/
                                               O      O

Knowing how to move in the pocket can save you precious seconds when trying to
avoid the rush or wait for a WR to break. I call this "feeling the pocket". I
know it sounds wrong, but this one tip can make or break your passing game.


*** The Plays ***
Instead of listing a bunch of plays and telling you how to use them all, I'll
instead show you how to make almost any play work. I'll go over pass routes
and running schemes individually that will cover almost any playbook.

*** Pass Routes ***
Know your routes for every pass play. Press and hold R2 pre-snap to get a
bird's eye view of the play called. Here are the commonly used pass routes in
NCAA Football 2004.

Post/Corner   Drag          Slant          Out/In       Curl      Loop   Fly

 \                         \             _________       __                |
  \                         \            |               ||       \        |
  |       _______            \           |               |         \__     |
  |              \            \          |               |          \|     |
  |               \            \         |               |          |      |
  |               |             \        |               |          |      |
 WR              WR             WR      WR              WR	       WR     WR

Each of these routes could be a deep route or a short route. In order to have
an effective passing game, you'll need to master the timing of each of these
pass routes and their depth down the field. You must know that a 15-yard
corner route is going to take much longer than a 5-yard slant route. Knowing
the timing of each of these routes will also help you know who the best hot WR
is when your opponent blitzes.

I've found that the 3 best routes in the game are the drag, slant and loop
routes. While the drag and loop routes take long to develop, they usually
leave your WR with enough room to catch and run. The slant routes, while
much more risky, can be used against a quick blitz. Since you can't hot
route your receivers to any of these, you'll have to figure how to use the
out/in, curl, and fly routes to your advantage as well.

--> Post/Corner <--
Keys: Timing and match-ups
Grade: B
Type: Deep (10-15 yards)
Time: 5 step drop + extra movement in pocket
Notes: Unless you have a speedy or big WR, the Post/Corner routes are
only effective when you have the right match-up and you get the timing right.
If you have a LB on a speedy WR in the slot, this can be a good route to
use. You'll probably need to rollout towards the same side of the field as
the route is being run. This will give you more time and a better angle for
the throw. Watch for your receiver to make the angled cut and take a step or two
before throwing the ball. A good crisp throw will be needed to get the ball
there before the defender closes.

*** Extra Tip  Post Routes***
If you have a WR running a post route with a break towards the middle of the
field, look for a zone that puts both safeties covering outside deep zones
(Cover 2). This usually leaves a LB in the short to mid range zone in the middle
of the field. If your WR is running a deep post into the middle the field, he'll
be wide open for a big play after he makes his cut and the safeties have left
the area.

--> Drag <--
Keys: Type of Defense and Time
Grade: A-
Type: Mid (7-10 yards), Short (5-7 yards)
Time: 5 step drop + any extra time needed
Notes: If your receiver gets jammed at the line, this play might take longer to
develop. I usually stay in the pocket and watch where my receiver is going to
end up. If the defense is in a zone and there is a defender in the area
where the drag route is going to end, I usually look elsewhere. You could roll
towards the same direction as the drag and hope your receiver will continue
his route through the zone and come out the other end wide open. This takes a
lot of time though. If there isn't anyone in a zone where the drag is going
to end up, wait for the receiver to make his way into that zone and throw a
medium powered strike to him. If you make the right kind of throw, your
receiver should be able to keep his step on the defender behind him and run for
more yards.

--> Slant <--
Keys: Timing and Awareness of Zones
Grade: A-
Type: Mid (7-10 yards), Short (5-7 yards)
Time: 5 step drop and throw for Mid, 3 step drop and throw for short
Notes: The slant route is based almost solely on timing. You need to throw
the ball just after your receiver breaks away from his defender and just
before your receiver gets to the safety's zone. Make sure to step into this
throw and put a little zip on it to get it in there. Don't expect to get any
yards after the catch with this route. The only thing to be aware of is if
a LB drops into the zone area you want to throw into or the safety jumps into
the zone that the slant is going to. In these cases look to the outside and

--> Out/In <--
Keys: Timing and Spacing
Grade: B
Types: Quick (3-5 yards), Short (5-7 yards), Mid (7-10 yards)
Time: Quick routes take almost no time, a 3-step drop for short and a 5-step
drop for mid
Notes: The Out/In routes are effective for those WRs and TEs who don't
possess blazing speed to get open. Timing is the key to these routes and you
usually want to put quite a bit of zip on the throw. Wait for the WR/TE to
make his cut and if he gets some separation from the defender, then zip the ball
in there. These plays runs out of room quickly, so make sure your target will be
able to stay in bounds. Since this can be used as one of your hot routes, you
should practice throwing these routes quite a bit to give you more options when

--> Curl <--
Keys: Coverage
Grade: D+
Types: Quick (3-5 yards), Short (5-7 yards), Mid (7-10 yards)
Time: Any amount of time until your receiver is uncovered will do.
Notes: This route is difficult to use effectively. The only way I have seen
to get your WR open using this route is to use it against a zone defense.
You need to wait for your WR to sit down in the zone and finish his route
so that he is facing you. If he is open, throw it to him, if not look at
someone else and come back to him if you have time.

--> Loop <--
Keys: Time and Patience
Grade: C
Types: Mid (7-10 yards)
Time: 5 step drop + any extra time to get your WR open (if jammed)
Notes: This route takes awhile to develop, but works very well if you have
patience. Wait until your WR comes all the way around in his route, then
hit him in stride just like you would do for a slant route.

--> Fly <--
Keys: Loads of Time and a Good Throw, also "Click On" skills
Grade: B+
Types: Deep (1015 yards), Very Deep (15+ yards)
Time: 7 step drop for Very Deep, 5 step drop for Deep
Notes: Only use this route against man-to-man coverage. Usually when a defense
brings a heavy blitz that leaves man-to-man coverage on at least one WR. If this
is the WR you have running a Fly route, then step up into the pocket and throw a
Soft to Mid power throw to him. Don't forget that this route might require you
to "Click On" (X) your WR and take control to make the catch. If you need a
speed burst after clicking on, use the O button. Press triangle to try and make
the catch. This route takes practice, but is worth the work to keep your
opponent from blitzing so much. I promise that after you burn them a couple of
times deep, the blitz won't be coming as much.

<Tip #7> *** Combination Post/Fly Route ***
1. Try to get your two best WRs on the same side of the formation either by
motion or by play call.
2. Make sure one WR is running a Post route that cuts to the middle of the
field and the other WR is running a Fly route straight up the field.
3. When you snap the ball watch the safeties to see where they go.
4. If both safeties go towards the sidelines watch for the WR running the
Post In to be wide open after his cut.
5. If both safeties slide towards your WR's side of the field, look for a
different receiver like a back out of the backfield.
6. If both safeties slide away from your WR's side of the field or towards
the middle of field, look to throw to the WR running the Fly route on the

<Tip #8> *** Zone Busters ***
You must learn to recognize the different zones that a defense can throw at you
to be a great passer in NCCA Football 2004. I'll use the 4-3 defense to
illustrate what to look for and what the weakness of each is. Remember that
you'll want a receiver to end up in the weak part of the zone. If you don't have
a receiver heading to the weak part of the zone, try throwing to the single
coverage spots.

--> Cover 2 <--
What to look for: Watching the safeties and CBs is the key. If the CBs stay in a
short zone and the safeties back up and towards the sidelines, you are dealing
with a Cover 2.
Weakness: Deep Middle (10-15+ yards)
Single Coverage: Deep Outside vs. safeties, Short Outside vs. CBs
Strength: Short Middle
Picture (W = Weakness, S = Strength):

       ( )           W           ( )
         \                       /
          \                     /
           X    ( ) (S) ( )    X
     ( )          \  |  /          ( )
      |            X X X            |
      X           X X X X           X

--> Cover 3 <--
What to look for: Watching the safeties and CBs is again the key. Look for one
of the safeties to slide towards the deep middle zone and the CB on that same
safety's side to drop into the deep outside zone. This is why it is called a
Cover 3 because it put 3 guys into deep zones.
Weakness: Short Outside to the side that the CB drops deep
Single Coverage: Deep Outside and Middle, Short Outside one side vs. LB
Strength: Covers one side of the field with 2 safeties
Picture (W = Weakness, S = Strength):

     ( )      ( )                ( )
      |      _/                  /
      |     /               S   /
      |    X ( )    ( ) ( )    X
      |  W     \___  |  /          ( )
      |            X X X            |
      X           X X X X           X

--> Cover 4 <--
What to look for: Watching the safeties and CBs is once again the key (Hey is
there a pattern here?). Look for both safeties to drop straight back and both
CBs to back off as well. This puts 4 guys in deep zones and therefore the name.
Weakness: Short Outside and Middle
Single Coverage: Short Outside and Middle vs. LBs
Strength: Anything Deep
Picture (W = Weakness, S = Strength):

     ( ) S   ( )     S      ( )  S ( )
      |      /                \     |
      |     |                  |    |
      |     X ( )   (W)    ( ) X    |
      | W      \___  |  ___/      W |
      |            X X X            |
      X           X X X X           X

You should be aware that there are different variations of these base zone
defenses. For example maybe your opponent blitzes the inside LB and is in a
Cover 3 zone. This opens a hole where the blitzing LB should be and allows you
to take advantage of it.


With tips about how to run the ball, I really don't need to go any further into
the actual plays themselves. All of the pass plays are covered in the individual
route descriptions. The best rules to follow are, mix up your play calling and
have fun!