Clock Management Report Card: Spaz's Use Of Timeouts In 2011

mgoblog has an interesting look at the basic decision making and strategy elements of college football, including the effective use of timeouts by a head coach. According to the article, here are the three tenants for whether a coach should use a timeout.

When trailing:

"Always take your timeouts on defense if there are less than 2-3 minutes left, you are trailing and the opponent is running out the full play clock."

When ahead:

"If the opponent is in the red zone pressing for a tying or go-ahead score, don't be afraid to use your timeouts to ensure a chance to retake the lead."

When tied:

"Tread lightly after first and second down but pull the trigger fast after third down."

Common knowledge is that Spaz is horrid when it comes to basic strategy with respect to clock management and simple things like when to call timeouts during the game. But just how bad is he? Let's attempt to quantify 2011's timeouts using this simple criteria.

NOTE: The below evaluates the timeouts that Spaz and the BC coaching staff actually called, and does not attempt to quantify opportunities where a timeout should have been called but wasn't (of which there are many).

After the jump, a look at BC's use of timeouts in 2011 and whether they satisfy any of these three criteria.

Opponent Quarter Clock Down Distance Yard Line BC Offense / Defense PF PA
Miami 2 4:28 1 10 MIA 47 Offense 10 14
Miami 3 10:08 2 12 BC 28 Offense 17 14
Miami 3 4:49 1 Goal MIA 2 Offense 17 14
Notre Dame 2 10:52 1 10 ND 25 Defense 0 10
Notre Dame 4 12:10 3 2 BC 28 Offense 7 13
Notre Dame 4 4:37 3 21 ND 40 Defense 7 16
Notre Dame 4 0:15 4 3 BC 41 Defense 14 16
N.C. State 2 9:25 4 3 NCST 24 Offense 7 3
Florida State 2 0:49 2 Goal FSU 1 Offense 0 28
Maryland 1 2:43 3 5 BC 25 Offense 14 3
Maryland 2 0:27 2 3 MD 39 Offense 21 3
Maryland 2 0:04 4 6 MD 42 Offense 21 3
Maryland 4 14:48 2 10 MD 20 Defense 21 3
Maryland 4 11:18 3 5 MD 44 Offense 21 3
Virginia Tech 2 1:13 3 6 VT 39 Offense 7 3
Virginia Tech 2 1:13 3 6 VT 39 Offense 7 3
Virginia Tech 4 9:12 4 6 VT 7 Offense 7 27
Virginia Tech 4 3:29 1 10 BC 23 Defense 14 30
Clemson 2 14:08 3 18 BC 42 Offense 0 17
Clemson 2 0:09 1 Goal BC 2 Defense 7 20
Wake Forest 2 0:45 1 10 WAKE 46 Offense 6 17
Wake Forest 2 0:32 3 4 WAKE 40 Offense 6 17
Wake Forest 4 7:25 3 10 WAKE 29 Offense 16 24
Wake Forest 4 1:49 4 4 WAKE 47 Offense 19 27
Wake Forest 4 0:53 3 11 WAKE 44 Defense 19 27
Massachusetts 2 1:08 3 16 MASS 39 Offense 24 7
Massachusetts 4 13:06 2 Goal BC 4 Defense 38 10
Duke 2 1:26 1 Goal DUKE 7 Offense 13 7
Duke 4 2:46 2 7 DUKE 47 Defense 19 20
Duke 4 2:40 3 5 DUKE 49 Defense 19 20
Duke 4 2:32 4 16 DUKE 38 Defense 19 20
Central Florida 4 8:23 1 10 UCF 34 Defense 3 23
Northwestern 1 4:16 3 11 NU 13 Offense 3 3
Northwestern 2 0:53 1 Goal BC 4 Defense 10 3
Northwestern 4 6:03 2 Goal NU 1 Offense 10 24
Northwestern 4 1:55 3 3 BC 35 Defense 17 24
Northwestern 4 1:41 4 1 BC 33 Defense 17 24

In the Miami game, BC took three timeouts -- one in the second quarter trailing 14-10 and two in the third quarter up 17-14. All three TOs were taken on offense. All three don't really fit the definition of a good timeout as specified above. In the case of the third timeout on 1st and goal, the next play resulted in the disastrous Josh Bordner fumble at the 2-yard line. 0 for 3 on timeouts.

Against Notre Dame, BC called just one timeout in the first half. Trailing 10-0, the Eagles called a timeout at 10:52 of the second quarter while on defense. The Irish had the ball on the ND 25 and had a 1st and 10. This violates one of Game Theory Manifesto's cardinal rules: Never take [defensive timeouts] immediately after the offense gains a first down. BC's three second half timeouts weren't all that much better. BC called a timeout on 3rd and 2 from its own 28, trailing 13-7 at 12:10 of the fourth quarter. Could have used that timeout later in the game. BC also called a timeout on defense with 4:37 to play, trailing 16-7 with the Irish on their own 40. Finally, BC called a timeout with 15 seconds left in an attempt to keep some time on the clock following an Irish punt. 1 for 4 on timeouts.

BC called just one timeout in the N.C. State game. Up 7-3 in the second quarter, BC called a timeout at 9:25 on offense and on the N.C. State 24 yard line. The Eagles decided to kick a field goal but Freese missed it. Still, not a bad timeout here to mull over what to do on fourth down. 1 for 1 on timeouts.

Against Florida State, BC called just one timeout. With just 49 seconds left in the second quarter and the Eagles offense on the FSU 1 yard line, Spaz called a timeout. After the timeout, Rolandan Finch fumbled the ball on the next play. Play-calling was unimaginative as always, but can't fault the coaching staff for taking the timeout there. 1 for 1 on timeouts.

In the Maryland game, BC called a season-high five timeouts -- three in the first half and two in the second. The first quarter timeout was unnecessary, but the two second quarter timeouts were used wisely as it helped the Eagles offense extend the drive (which resulted in a half-ending INT, but still). Both fourth quarter timeouts were unnecessary given BC was up 21-3 at the time. 2 for 5 on timeouts.

A total of four timeouts in the Virginia Tech game. The first was taken on offense during the second quarter on the VT 39. With just 1:13 left in the half, wasn't all that bad a timeout. But only the first of two back-to-back timeouts is passable. Spaz took a second timeout on the very same 3rd and 6 because the offense couldn't figure out the play. BC was in the red zone in the fourth quarter when they called their second timeout and the third was a defensive timeout looking to save some clock. 3 for 4 on timeouts.

BC's first timeout in the Clemson game was at 14:08 of the second quarter, on offense, down 17-0. The Eagles were facing a 3rd and 18 on their own 42. Can't remember the specific circumstances around this timeout but since it was taken in the first half I'll be a bit forgiving. I can't say the same for the second timeout of the first half, taken with just 9 seconds left in the half with the Tigers offense on the BC 2. 1 for 2 on timeouts.

The Wake Forest game was another five timeout game for the Eagles. The first two were on an offensive drive towards the end of the first half with the Eagles on the Wake Forest 46 yard line. The timeout at 7:25 of the fourth quarter on offense could have been better used towards the end of the game. The other two were fine. 4 of 5 on timeouts.

Against UMass, I don't understand BC's first timeout in the second quarter, already up 24-7. Nor can I explain BC's second timeout, a defensive timeout in the fourth quarter, BC up 38-10 and UMass on the BC 4. 0 for 2 on timeouts.

Up 13-7 against Duke, BC's first timeout was taken on a first and goal from the Duke 7. Since there was just 1:26 left in the half, an OK timeout. The three others were on the same defensive stand as the Eagles tried to save some clock down 20-19. 4 for 4 on timeouts.

BC's one timeout in the UCF game occurred in the fourth quarter with the Eagles already down 23-3. It was on defense when UCF had a first and 10 from its own 34. If memory serves this was the C.J. Jones knee injury that forced BC to take an injury timeout. We'll treat this as a walk in baseball. 0 for 0 on timeouts.

Finally, in the Northwestern game, BC's first timeout was in the second quarter with just 53 seconds to play and the Northwestern offense with a 1st and goal from the BC 4. Bad Spaz. Bad. The second timeout came in the fourth quarter with the Eagles offense on the NU 1 yard line and a 2nd and goal. OK. Last two were on the game's final defensive stand as the Eagles tried to get the ball back. 3 for 4 on timeouts.

By my count, Spaz is rocking a .571 batting average (20-of-35) this season in his timeout-taking abilities. It would seem though that Spaz's clock management got worse as the season went on, with some very questionable decisions specifically in the Miami and Notre Dame games.

Thoughts? Disagreements with the above? I can't recall all of the game situations at the time (injury timeouts, etc.) so keep me honest on Spaz's timeout scorecard in the comments section below.

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