When does a good game turn into a bad game in a college football game? When do time and distance become more important than score? Is it difficult for a coach to get their players in the same frame of mind for 95% of a game and then reverse it for the last five percent?
These questions were posed to University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Rusty Wright in response to two games in the past few weeks that would have been viewed as wonderful decisions by the players who made them in the second. quarter of a game, but that hurt their team. chances of winning at the end of the fourth quarter of the possible losses they had in mind at the time of these decisions.
The former has been dissected hundreds of times over the past six weeks. Auburn’s gifted running back Tank Bigsby went out of bounds in the final two minutes of Auburn’s eventual four-overtime loss to Alabama, a move that stopped the clock with 1:35 to go in regular time. The Tide scored the tying touchdown with 24 seconds left in regulation, a time that wouldn’t have been there if Bigsby had stayed within his run limits.
The second was mentioned much less and certainly had less of an impact on Kentucky’s 20-17 Citrus Bowl victory over Iowa on New Years Day, but was a second example of how popular game sometimes does. is not the right game.
With 3:59 to go, the UK led 17-13 and facing a fourth and 10 at Iowa 46, Hawkeyes defensive back Jermari Harris intercepted a pass 12 yards down the field. In truth, the defensive player should always drop the ball to the ground rather than intercepting it, as an incompleteness brings the ball back to the original line of scrimmage, where it would go to the defensive team on the downs.
But decisions like that are magnified late in a close game, so much so that even Kentucky coach Mark Stoops mentioned it after the Wildcats rallied for a 20-17 victory.
Stoops later said: “When we got there on the fourth down … luckily for us that ball got intercepted and saved us about 12 yards, and defensively we got that save.”
Wright said of the two pieces: “Anytime you can show your players examples like that, it helps. That’s the beauty of TV, social media and computers. You have a lot more access to these. types of pieces than before. Hopefully, when you can show them a game like that in a big game, it lasts a little longer. “
Because Bigsby’s game happened in the Iron Bowl, and in a state where the Alabama-Auburn rivalry is at its peak 365 days a year, his mistake will last much longer, whether it is right or wrong.
But Wright says that the interception of the Iowa-Kentucky game is also a scenario that is often discussed during practice.
“It doesn’t come back as much, but it does happen,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard for these kids because it’s in their heads to make a game, to force a turnaround. But they also have to know that an incompletion there can sometimes be better than an interception. . “
Bigsby’s mistake is easy to understand both ways. Players regularly go out of bounds to save time, and most of the time every coach wants more time. But with a late lead in a game where your defense is playing as well as Auburn’s was that day against the Tide, you want time to fly as quickly as possible.
The Iowa-Kentucky scenario is a little more nuanced.
“That’s the position on the pitch,” Wright said. “Getting the ball close to midfielder in this situation instead of your own 36 is huge. You can open your whole playbook from there. On your 36 you have to be a little more careful. business there can be very expensive. “
Not that these will be the only scenarios Wright will discuss again with his squad and coaching staff – as he has done several times before – as the Mocs gear up for their first normal spring under him after de heavy rains washed away its first spring in 2019, COVID took its second, and the school’s decision – at Wright’s request – to cancel last year’s spring season has taken its third.
Another will be the bizarre end of Sunday’s game between Kansas City and Cincinnati NFL at Cincy, where Bengals coach Zac Taylor brazenly dodged a field goal in the last minute, placing fourth in a draw, likely to keep the dangerous Chiefs quarterback. Patrick Mahomes for the chance to host a last-second rally, despite KC having no more downtime.
When Cincy threw up an incomplete fourth down, it appeared Taylor would have the wrath of the entire Bengal nation befall him, but an interference call bailed him out, Cincinnati kicked the basket without time on the clock and headed for his first playoff game in over five years.
“I would have kicked the basket earlier and given it a shot, but Mahomes has the ability to beat you in this situation,” said Wright. “We actually talked about dropping out of the end zone in this situation to kill time. But it’s a tough decision. You sure don’t want to mess around there and not score.”
Coaching has always been tough, and advancements in television and the like – more games on TV than ever before, highlights available 24 hours a day by pressing a computer or phone keypad – have only made things more difficult.
“We spend so much time on these situations in training,” said Wright. “Then it happens in a game and you cringe. It’s crazy. “
This is football, where an oblong ball, no matter how hard you work to prevent it, can take some of its most unpredictable bounces in the worst of times.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at [email protected]