Sunday, October 01, 2006

Stop Punting!

The Over-Punting Virus has been infecting the NFL the first three weeks of the season (covered best by Gregg Easterbrook in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback columns for ESPN's fast-sinking Page 2) and now it appears to be ruining potentially good college football games as well. The latest example? Iowa's big chance to make a statement tonight against Ohio State.

Before I go any further, I admit that the Buckeyes simply outclassed the Hawkeyes (what an 'Eyes showdown!) tonight and that Iowa probably wasn't winning no matter what. That said, their only chance to win the game was squandered when they punted in two highly, highly suspect situations.

The first came with under a minute to go in the first half. They had the ball at in Ohio State territory and trailed 21-10. In case you are unable to do the math, that means that the Hawkeye defense had allowed three touchdowns already ... in four possessions. Knowing that, and knowing that Ohio State gets the ball coming out of halftime, you have to go for it. It was fourth-and-four with the game pretty much on the line. I would argue that you go for it on fourth-and-four on your opponent's 45-yard line in ALL scenarios, but there is simply no excuse not to go for it given the time, score, and circumstance.

The second instance was just as egregious - if not for field position, for the time remaining. In this case, Ohio State had already scored another touchdown and now led by a whopping 28-10. Yet with seven minutes to go in the third quarter, Iowa kicked again. Are you kidding me? Oh yeah, and it was fourth-and-four again and from midfield. Oh yeah, and Iowa supposedly has a veteran leader at quarterback (although Drew Tate looked awfully jumpy in this one) and the best tight end in the country in Jeff Chandler (who looked pretty stiff, even before the costly fumble). You can't get four yards with that combo? What in the hell is going on? Point shaving? Temporary insanity? I am begging someone to give me an explanation that is even remotely plausible. It actually made my happy when Ohio State promptly marched right down the field, used up the entire quarter, and then tacked on three points with a field goal. Game over.

I will never understand what makes coaches so conservative, other than to assume that Easterbrook has it right when he says that it all boils down to blame-shifting. By refusing to roll the dice on fourth-and-short, the coach can pick out the few turnovers, dropped passes (sadly, not so few in the case of the Hawkeyes), and other miscues and put all the blame on the players. It's pretty much the most cowardly thing I can think of. If that isn't the explanation, than it just means that all these coaches are complete morons with no grasp of basic odds or football strategy. Either they are hiding from blame or they have no concept regarding the sport of football. I can't think of another option here.

No comments: