I’ve rewritten the intro to this post 10 times. Each time I keep getting nicer about it. One intro suggested Biscuit start writing for Bleacher Report. Suffice it to say, I disagree with Biscuit’s “FAIL” post below, but more than anything, I disagree with this point of view…
This isnâ€™t debatable or something you can defend â€˜depending on the circumstances.â€™ You just TAKE THE 3! This is obvious and easy. You have a half to play. You TAKE YOU POINTS.
Parly I disagree because it strikes me as frustration-fueled. Mostly I disagree because it’s plainly wrong. There’s absolutely no actual analysis in Biscuit’s argument. Here, I’ll show you why it’s completely wrong. I’ll just go ahead and debate it.
Biscuit feels the decision to try for a touchdown over the field goal try was obviously incorrect and something that should have disappeared with the departure of Weis. I feel that there are plenty of arguments that could be made, the decision is non-trivial, and there was plenty of nuance to complicate things.
So that I may spell out my viewpoint one final time, let me just go ahead and do so here. If you disagree, fine, you can spell that out in the comments. I wont reply. This sort of thing is a holy-war of coaching decisions, and neither side will ever see eye-to-eye on the matter, even if there were data on this exact matter to provide empirical evidence.
- Given Kelly’s statements during the game and today, it’s clear that he had no idea whether Crist was ever coming back to the game.
- Given that, it’s reasonable to act under the assumption that the offense will not operate any better in the 2nd half than it has since Crist left the game.
- After Crist’s departure, the ND offensive drives leading up to this decision had resulted in the following: 1 yard gained, Interception; 1 yard lost, Punt; 7 yards gained, Punt; 19 yards gained, Punt; 22 yards gained, Punt; 23 yards gained, Interception; 24 yards gained, Punt;
- Only 1 of those Crist-less drives ended in Michigan territory – at the Michigan 47 yard line. The other 6 never got beyond the ND 48.
- Meanwhile, during all of that offensive ineptitude, Crist’s status just kept getting drawn out. At first, he was going to sit “the rest of the 1st quarter.” Then it was “the rest of the half.” At some point, there was apparently some hope of a return before the half, but the doctors decided to sit him to be safe. Kelly must now operate under the belief that Crist isn’t coming back at all.
- The point at which a decision needed to be made was set up by a 37 yard reception on 3rd and 10. It was a bit of lightning-in-a-bottle facilitated by a defense giving up the under to protect the EZ and concede a field goal if necessary because, well…
- ND was down 14 points and showed the opponent absolutely no ability to produce any offense.
- Now here’s where the disagreements start to show up. The argument from the pro-FG group, when not arguing “play the percentages” while probably having no idea of the actual percentages, tends to be “go out on a high note” and “take the points.” Both of which are notions that depend on the field goal being “automatic,” which, recent kicking-game positives aside, I find laughable coming from ND fans. But further…
- I question the notion that taking 3, and getting within 11, thus making it either a 2 TD, or 1 TD + 2 pt conversion + FG game is much of a “boost” for “the boys.” “The Boys” ain’t stupid, and they know damned well that they’re still 11 points behind a team with a devastating QB on their side while our “boys” are playing with a QB who couldn’t start at a community college. This isn’t Mr. Roger’s Feel-Good About Yourself Hour. Take the FG during the first time you’ve even sniffed the EZ? You sure that’s not looking more like a waiving of the white flag to “the boys?” [eye roll]
- And let’s get back to the scenarios had a FG been tried. Worst case, you try the “easy” way, and either miss or get blocked, and then you’re dead. Deader than dead. You just tried the easy way, and failed. Lesson learned: stop trying. Best case: You make it. You’re still heading into the locker room down 11, with no signs presented through the entire first half that you’ll see the EZ again. Hell, it took one big break/gift to get that 37 yard pass down to the Michigan 3. How many more of those you gonna get while your 2-on-a-scale-of-10 3rd string QB is leading you in the 2nd half?
- Not to continue to beat up Nate, as I think he certainly did his best and I’m sure he’s an asset to the team in some way, but part of Biscuit’s “position” was that “you have a half to play.” Which I believe can be extrapolated to “anything could happen!” Sure. Just as anything could happen while you’re trying to kick the field goal.
- To answer anyone arguing that our 3rd string QB could have been “coached up” during the half-time to facilitate a better offensive production in the 2nd half, my response: The kid couldn’t get a starting job at a community college. Sure, miracles happen on the football field, but most of you are arguing to take the “percentages” and the “points” when you argue to take the FG. I doubt “miracle” is listed under the “likely” column in the table of percentages.
- What you can do as a coach, however, is instruct – instruct your defense and your special teams to attack, and seek to create points. Fumble returns, interception returns, kickoff returns, and punt returns for touchdowns happen often in the college football game relative to miracle stories of 3rd string QBs leading their team to 2 TDs or 1 TD, a 2 point conversion, and a field goal in the 2nd half.
- So then you seek to eliminate the need for further big breaks. You seek to narrow the gap between you and the opponent as much as possible. You seek to make it a 7 point game, and hope that your defense or special teams can make a play in the 2nd half to tie it up.
- I also find the argument that Crist came back, so clearly, Kelly should have taken the FG irritating. It assumes that something changing in the past wouldn’t thus immediately have ramifications in the exact same game in the next half. It forgets everything taught in a survey-level philosophy course. It’s the “change this one bad thing but keep it all the same otherwise” argument you get from 8 year olds, and it deserves no further attention than a sneer and a snicker.
So there, despite what Biscuit states was undebatable, I just did it. It wasn’t that hard, and didn’t even require any stretches of imagination. Q.E.D.
There is nuance and art to coaching college football – in pretty much ever facet. We as a nation of fans have become entirely too comfortable digging for reasons why ND lost. We’ve become entirely too comfortable digging for reasons to be hopeful despite the losses. We’ve become entirely too comfortable with the losses. From Kelly’s presser today, I take it that he senses that perhaps the players have become too comfortable with the losses too, so long as they can claim to have played hard. Perhaps the fans are guilty as well. I’m as guilty as the next fan, searching for silver linings and dark clouds, depending on the overall weather forecast. But I read fans throwing around terms like “undebatable” and “indictment.” I see folks making comparisons to failed coaches of the past. I think we need to fight such urges just as we need to fight urges to find any parallels between Kelly and past greats. We’re so anxious to get to the end of the story that we’re unwilling to simply let the wins and losses fall as they may, and seek to extrapolate the conclusion by digging through the ephemera. I suppose we wouldn’t have much content on HLS if we didn’t do some of that, but I also think we need to be more careful with our digging. We have a unique opportunity to be part of the “thought leaders” among ND and college football fans, and while it really is just a game, we aren’t doing anyone any favors by taking that opportunity lightly.