Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Run the Ball!

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 9, 2010

Normally this time of year I tend to focus exclusively on the Broncos, but I’m going to deviate to the college game for a second.  Saturday I was witness to the worst collapse I have ever seen on a football field.  I was at Kivisto Field in Lawrence, Kansas, where the CU Buffs held a 45-17 lead over Kansas with 14;52 left in the fourth quarter.  Here is what transpired:

– A KU 13-yard touchdown capping a 9 play 66 yard drive to cut it to 45-24 with 11:05 left

– A KU onside kick recovery

– A KU 38-yard touchdown pass with 9:26 left, cutting the lead to 45-31.  Drive took just 1:46 in four plays

– A KU fumble return touchdown on a stupid reverse call by the Buffs.  Receiver Toney Clemons fumbled after a 14-yard loss on the trick play.  Now it’s 45-38 and we still have 7:12 to play.  For those not keeping track, that’s 21 KU points in less than seven minutes.  CU had called just one running play and four pass attempts on this drive.

– Two plays later, CU quarterback Cody Hawkins throws an interception.

– KU takes just five plays to march 37 yards for the tying touchdown. We’re now tied at 45 apiece with 4;30 still remaining

– CU goes three and out and punts.  Two of the three plays are passes, one resulting in a sack.

– KU then needs just five plays to go 63 yards for the go ahead touchdown.  The Jayhawks now lead 52-45 with 52 seconds remaining.  They have managed 35 points in the fourth quarter.

– CU launches a furious charge on their final drive, but sees a last ditch shot at the end zone fail.

To recap, the Buffs had a 28-point fourth quarter lead and managed to lose the game.  Certainly the defense played its part in this collapse, and there is no disputing they didn’t do their job in stopping the Kansas offense.  That said, the Buffs called a total of four running plays in the fourth quarter, one of which was the touchdown that put them up 45-17, and another that was the failed reverse resulting in the fumble return TD.  The Buffs’ collapse is simply stunning, and is reflective of boneheaded coaching and clock management.  I’ve never coached a game, yet I know how to properly run down the clock with the lead.  Even if the Buffs ran up the middle for no gain every single play, and went three and out and punted each time, they likely would have won the game by running down that clock and not giving Kansas chances to win.  Instead, they had multiple incomplete passes that stopped the clock, and the throwing also resulted in a costly turnover.  The trick play is worst of all, for there is no reason to take that kind of chance when you have a big lead.

This game should be a case study for coaches at all levels.  I see similar things in the NFL all the time.  Yesterday, the Lions tried a pass play on 3rd and 6 (with a backup QB no less) that proved incomplete in the final two minutes.  Had they run up the middle, even for no gain, they could have taken an additional 40 seconds off the clock before punting and almost certainly would have won the game.  Instead, the clock stopped on the incompletion.  The Jets ended up kicking the tying field goal as time expired.  It certainly stands to reason that had the Lions called a running play instead of the one they did, the Jets would not have had enough time to get in position for that tying field goal.

These are just a few examples, but too many coaches need to remember the basics of football.  A good running game can often lead to success, and is always mandatory at some point.  Especially when nursing a lead, coaches need to remember that running and keeping the clock moving is almost always the key to winning.  Of course coaches’ egos will continue to get in the way of smart thinking, but when holding onto a lead, clock management is extremely vital to success, especially if it’s done by RUNNING THE BALL!!

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