No one said that game management is easy. We all have opinions on when certain decisions should be made and why. ACC level head coaches and by extension their staffs are paid large sums of money to handle many events during a football game. What plays to run, who to utilize in certain offensive and defensive groupings, to punt, kick a field goal or go for it and of course, how to handle time and score situations.
Decisions are made on every play and a coach must always be a play or two or more ahead of the game, anticipating what might happen and what that will do their decision tree.
I honestly believe that the ability to manage the clock, even under the pressure of a game, is not something that takes a rocket scientist. Yes, at times everyone will make a decision that doesn't work out for the best, but clock management is far less about feel than science. Play the percentages; with a little bit of insight into your team and the opposition and the results are usually as favorable as they can be.
To make it really work, it requires a staff to stay poised, organize their team (sometimes it is done because these situations are practiced, other times they have the chance to organize via a time out) and communicate clearly and decisively something that they are confident their team can execute. This is how a coaching staff executes their role in the game.
So with that in mind, let's revisit the final 56 seconds of game time, which took 137 seconds of actual time to play out and see what decisions were made and those that shouldn't have been made. Hindsight is always 20/20, but in this case, I think there were pretty simple decisions, almost all of which dealt with communication between coaching staff and team, that could have potentially allowed BC to either win or at least send the game to overtime...whoops...well maybe send the game to overtime...details, details.
Just a note that I had the advantage of both being at the game and seeing things that weren't shown on TV as well as the DVR of the broadcast later on that night...and Sunday...and today...and probably tomorrow.
0:56 left, Boston College takes over at the Wake Forest 11 following the fumble recovery. 1st and 10.
Steve Addazio, clearly in charge of the team, huddles the offense on the sideline before sending them out on to the field. There is a clear message sent into what will be run on at least the first offensive snap.
Result: Tyler Rouse, off left tackle runs for a 2 yard gain. An ankle tackle prevents him from potentially scoring.
0:37 left, 2nd down, 8 yards to go at the Wake Forest 9. 19 seconds of actual time has passed.
The team gets right to the line of scrimmage following the Rouse run.
Result: Smith executes the read option, faking to Rouse and out running the containment to the edge. He is brought down just inside the 1 yard line.
Addazio sprints down the sideline apparently trying to call time out...of course he has none, but what he is really looking for is the official to stop the clock and measure for a first down. He doesn't need to worry though, the official immediately stops the clock at 0:29 and calls for a measurement.
Addazio is calling for the team to spike the ball, unaware the officials will bring the chains out, from clear across the field. Smith knows the clock is stopped, but hurries the team to the line as one of the other officials spots a ball appearing to be ready to restart play. Smith communicates with the entire line and the backs and the team appears very organized and ready to go on the snap.
The delay between the official stopping the clock and Smith finally realizing that the chains will need to be brought across the field is 23 seconds of actual time.
This is where the problems begin.
Bringing the chains across the field will take some time. Some time to bring them over, measure, bring them back and restart the clock. The game clock, currently frozen at 29 seconds, will not start for another 58 seconds, meaning that 1 minute and 16 seconds will elapse from the time that the Smith run ended until the clock was restarted for what will be a first down. How BC utilized those critical seconds is what cost the Eagles the game.
One can make the case that the staff should have realized that there would be a measurement and immediately gotten the entire team over to the sideline to talk. BC starts every offensive series in a group huddle and there was no reason not to do otherwise now. Even if you take away the 23 seconds where Smith was lining the team up, unaware of the measurement, there is still a gap of 58 seconds to communicate all that needs to be.
The team went toward the sideline, but never got into that group huddle. A Heights article states that there was confusion over exactly what was communicated to Smith, and I didn't see Smith actually talk with Addazio during the break. What I do know for sure is that the team as a whole didn't hear it from the coach, meaning that somehow Smith needed to get the word out and that would require a huddle.
I turned to my buddy and said, "if they don't score on this play, you will see the biggest shit show of all time."
So what should have happened here?
Addazio needed to have two scenarios in his head and communicated them to the entire team, not just Smith. Everyone panicked. You can see Addazio waving Smith over for some last second instructions that should have been tended to during that 58 second or in excess of a minute break.
- if it is 3rd down, we are doing A and B
- if it is 1st down, we are doing A, B and C