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The W - Football - Strategic Question
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redsoxnation
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Since: 24.7.02

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#1 Posted on | Instant Rating: 3.85
I'd like to preface this by saying I did not wager on this game.
From the Cal/UCLA game. Cal has just blown a 40-28 4th quarter lead and trails 41-40 when they get intercepted and the pick is returned inside the 10 with around 1:05 left in the game. Cal has 2 time-outs remaining and are national title contenders should they win the game. The Line is UCLA favored by 1. Now, if you are Cal, how do you not have your defense just flop down on first down for UCLA, allowing them to get a touchdown to go up 8 and you get the ball back with 2 time-outs and around 50 seconds left and a shot at overtime. You have already hung 40 on the UCLA defense, so it wouldn't be shocking if you go down the field and at least have the shot at the 2 point conversion and a possible conference/national title saving overtime. Instead, they stop them on 1st and 2nd down, using both time-outs along the way. After stopping them on 3rd down, UCLA calls time-out before the play clock expires with 6 seconds left, and end up getting a rushing touchdown to win 47-40 as time expires, thus taking the game off of push anyway.
Now, I know some would have screamed bloody murder/integrity of the game/what about the children/point shaving had Cal taken a dive to get the ball back, but, wouldn't that have been the only logical decision to make if Cal had national title aspirations? And, the over/under was around 59, so they had already blown by that.
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orangeman
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#2 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.48
Plus the clock stops for moving the chains after a first down in college. But I don't think you'd find a coach with balls enough to make such a call because if it backfires it'll be a monkey on his back the rest of his career, logical or not.



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Since: 28.3.02
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#3 Posted on | Instant Rating: 0.00
You know, I was thinking the exact same thing during the Texas-OSU game. OSU stops Texas on the one-yard line on fourth down and gets the ball back down one, having to drive the length of the field with very little time on the clock. Next thing you know, safety, ballgame. I think the smarter play would have been to give up the touchdown _ on first down, to save more time _ then take your chances. Especially in OSU's case, when Holmes and Ginn had been tearing Texas up on kickoff returns and either one has the potential to take it to the barn on any play.

Orangeman's right, I think. Even though it makes sense from a purely strategic standpoint _ you're down anyway, why not give yourself a better chance at getting the tie/lead _ there's no coach that would do it because if it doesn't work, you'd get fried by people who don't understand the logic of it.

Now, remember a couple years ago, when the Patriots took an intentional safety against the Broncos, putting themselves down three late, yet still won the game? Instead of punting from their own end zone, the Patriots free kicked from the 20, buried the Broncos at their own 15, got the ball back and scored the winning touchdown. Sometimes it actually makes sense to sacrifice points to put yourself in a better position to win.
TheBucsFan
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#4 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.42
    Originally posted by redsoxnation
    I'd like to preface this by saying I did not wager on this game.
    From the Cal/UCLA game. Cal has just blown a 40-28 4th quarter lead and trails 41-40 when they get intercepted and the pick is returned inside the 10 with around 1:05 left in the game. Cal has 2 time-outs remaining and are national title contenders should they win the game. The Line is UCLA favored by 1. Now, if you are Cal, how do you not have your defense just flop down on first down for UCLA, allowing them to get a touchdown to go up 8 and you get the ball back with 2 time-outs and around 50 seconds left and a shot at overtime. You have already hung 40 on the UCLA defense, so it wouldn't be shocking if you go down the field and at least have the shot at the 2 point conversion and a possible conference/national title saving overtime. Instead, they stop them on 1st and 2nd down, using both time-outs along the way. After stopping them on 3rd down, UCLA calls time-out before the play clock expires with 6 seconds left, and end up getting a rushing touchdown to win 47-40 as time expires, thus taking the game off of push anyway.
    Now, I know some would have screamed bloody murder/integrity of the game/what about the children/point shaving had Cal taken a dive to get the ball back, but, wouldn't that have been the only logical decision to make if Cal had national title aspirations? And, the over/under was around 59, so they had already blown by that.


I thought about this too, and I think their are two things possibly preventing it. First, too have this work, you must assume UCLA would accept the easy touchdown. It'd be equally as logical for them to see the opne field and just run around until either the clock ticked down or the defense finally just made the tackle. Two, perhaps the Cal coach thought his defense was just as likely to force a turnover as his offense was to drive the length of the field and score not only a touchdown, but a two-point conversion as well. Given the nature of the game and situation, I don't know how you could think this, but yeah.

(edited by TheBucsFan on 9.10.05 1739)
orangeman
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#5 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.48
During the Pats/Falcons game today, Jim Nantz and Phil Sims talked about such a situation, letting the opponent walk in to save time in getting the ball back rather than fighting to stop them. Sims made some of the same points from the original post here and also wondered why coaches didn't do it.



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#6 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.53
    Originally posted by redsoxnation
    I'd like to preface this by saying I did not wager on this game.
    From the Cal/UCLA game. Cal has just blown a 40-28 4th quarter lead and trails 41-40 when they get intercepted and the pick is returned inside the 10 with around 1:05 left in the game. Cal has 2 time-outs remaining and are national title contenders should they win the game. The Line is UCLA favored by 1. Now, if you are Cal, how do you not have your defense just flop down on first down for UCLA, allowing them to get a touchdown to go up 8 and you get the ball back with 2 time-outs and around 50 seconds left and a shot at overtime. You have already hung 40 on the UCLA defense, so it wouldn't be shocking if you go down the field and at least have the shot at the 2 point conversion and a possible conference/national title saving overtime. Instead, they stop them on 1st and 2nd down, using both time-outs along the way. After stopping them on 3rd down, UCLA calls time-out before the play clock expires with 6 seconds left, and end up getting a rushing touchdown to win 47-40 as time expires, thus taking the game off of push anyway.
    Now, I know some would have screamed bloody murder/integrity of the game/what about the children/point shaving had Cal taken a dive to get the ball back, but, wouldn't that have been the only logical decision to make if Cal had national title aspirations? And, the over/under was around 59, so they had already blown by that.


I think you have two separate issues here; the issue of the Cal winning the game (you pose a very legitimate question) and then the gambling implications (meaningless, or at least should be meaningless given the discussions of the former).

Firstly, your thought process is valid, given that after giving up the score, Cal is still within one possession of potentially sending the game into overtime.

In fact, in Super Bowl XXXII, (superbowl.com) where the Elway-TD Broncos upset the Packers to win Elway's first Super Bowl, Mike Holmgren made essentially the same decision. Going from memory here, so I may be a bit off on the details, but facing a Denver 1st-and-goal inside the 1 in a tie game with under 1:30 to go, Holmgren opted to have his defense "let" Terrell Davis score the TD (in lieu of Denver running the ball into the line to set up a chip shot winning FG in the waning seconds of the game); this gave the ball back to reigning MVP Brett Favre with at least a chance to tie and force OT.

So this strategy you propose is not unprecedented. However, despite its inherent advantages in (as I maintain) applying this strategy to maximize your team's chance of winning, there are peripheral reasons why coaches do not try it:

- Most "casual fans" (I assume you've been to NFL games - take a look at some of those around you sometime) cannot properly rationalize "We let the other team score?!?" and will not understand the strategy involved.
- Similarly, coaches often take "keeping the margin of defeat down" over pulling out all the stops to try and win. This is why you see teams down by 10 with 6 minutes to go punt on 4th down rather than try to win; coaches want their end-of-season evaluations to have close losses rather than blowouts. Read TMQ on nfl.com (nfl.com) who regularly rails against this phenomena.

I think the "manage the margin of defeat" factor is more relevant than any pointspread implications of these choices; I honestly believe coaches are unconcerned with pointspreads and avoiding the appearance of impropriety, but more concerned with keeping their jobs.

Edited to add: Matthew Zemek in the always-excellent Monday Morning QB column on collegefootballnews (collegefootballnews.com) addresses the very issue I address of coaches playing not lose (midway down the page, the Karl Dorrell UCLA item). Fascinating stuff!

(edited by Alpha Dog on 10.10.05 1240)

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