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Kevin O’Neill’s Sports & Gaming News
STRATEGIC ERRORS: QUESTIONABLE DECISIONS FROM COACHING ICONS.
By Kevin O’Neill
After insisting throughout the offseason that Patrick Ramsey was his guy, Joe Gibbs gave Patrick Ramsey the quickest of hooks. Mark Brunell is the Redskins starting QB job after Ramsey suffered a slight neck injury on a clothesline in the second quarter of their opening win over the Bears. Did Ramsey deserve the demotion? Well, he turned the ball over three times, with an interception and a fumble. But the clothesline/blow to the head that caused the fumble should have been a penalty, and it would have been tremendous for Ramsey to actually hold on to the ball on that play.
Ramsey was 5 for 11 and 105 yards passing, gaining over 9½ yards per pass attempt, which compares highly favorably to the 5 yards per pass attempt that Brunell recorded in relief. Ramsey had a 15-yard completion and a short TD pass called back on penalties. Importantly, he had none of the run support that would have opened up the passing game. Redskins running plays with Ramsey in the ballgame netted –1, 1, 4, 2, 3, 3, -2, 8, 0, 5, 8, 0, and 1 yards. Is it Ramsey’s fault that his offensive line couldn’t run block?
While not a world-beating effort, was Ramey’s 1½ quarters a performance that should result in the loss of a starting position to a guy who turns 35 year old this Saturday? Other than the one interception and a couple of bad throws on incomplete passes, Ramsey didn’t play terribly considering he had no running game and was facing a tough Bears defense. Tough to see how Gibbs’ players can have a lot of confidence in the coaching staff when after insisting that a guy is your starter since last January such a skittish decision results in that “starter” losing his job for no real reason.
There were a couple of questionable coaching calls by noted college coaches that involved game strategy. Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks were down 2 and after stopping Georgia on a third down play could have called their final time out with 2:00 left. Instead, the Gamecocks saved their timeout and the clock ran until Georgia took a delay of game penalty. After a Georgia punt South Carolina took over with 1:11 remaining. The 40+ seconds would have been valuable, though it probably didn’t influence the result of the game, as South Carolina went 4-and-out from their own 22 following the Georgia punt.
And what about the decision that Ohio State’s Jim Tressel faced last week? A case could have been made that the Buckeyes, down 23-22 late in the game, should have allowed Texas to score a TD to make the margin 8. That can be the proper play to make, to give yourself an opportunity to tie the game with a TD and two-pointer rather than let the opponent run out the clock.
When Texas was at the OSU 20 with over 2 minutes left and 2 timeouts left you could make a case that holding the Longhorns to a FG was the best course of action, as you could get the ball back with over a minute left. But after Texas got a first down on their first play and OSU was forced to use a timeout the fairly obvious play was to let Texas score, considering the Buckeyes offensive struggles. If they had more of a downfield passing game you could make a case for letting the Longhorn series play out. But they really should have let them score when they were first and goal.
Coaches are very hesitant to give up the TD down 1 late, even when it is the best course of action. I can understand their reluctance but they need to talk about this before the season starts and have their team prepared to do it when the time comes.
Green Bay did it in the Super Bowl in a tie game. They allowed Denver to score a 1-yard TD run in a 24-24 game. They didn't want to let Denver run the clock down and kick a 20 yard field goal for the win, they figured they had a better chance with the ball down 7 than letting Jason Elam kick the equivalent of an extra point. There was remarkably little talk about it at the time considering the stakes involved.
The only time I recall a TD being allowed in optimal conditions (down 1 point) was when Syracuse led Kentucky in the Music City Bowl 14-13 following the 1999 season. Hal Mumme let Syracuse score and then Paul Pasqualoni made a strange "I'm not going to let you one-up me" decision to go for two to go ahead by 9, which didn't work out. Here's the game story....
"After Will Allen intercepted Dusty Bonner's pass with 6:38 left, Mungro padded the lead when Kentucky, anxious to regain possession inside the last two minutes, allowed him to score on a 20-yard run with 1:42 to play. Syracuse tried to make that strategy backfire by going for a 2-point conversion and a 9-point lead, but the attempt failed."
Syracuse held on to win the game. While instances of allowing a TD are rare, if down 1 point with no hope of getting the ball back it is absolutely the proper strategy to employ. It may have been the best course of action for Ohio State last Saturday.
Enough on coaching (obviously).
While you don’t see any oil derricks in Central Kentucky, high gas prices are boosting the economy in the Bluegrass. How? A trio of buyers from Dubai spent $58.6 million on Monday and Tuesday at the Keeneland sales, including paying $9.7 million and $6.3 million for individual Storm Cat colts. Apparently they’re sick of losing the classic races over here. “Break a leg" would probably be the wrong good luck wish for the oil barons. Remember to join Nelly’s Sportsline, ASA, Al McMordie, Tom Stryker, and yours truly for weekend football action at www.Vegas5.com.
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This is cool, we sponsored a friend in the Georgia MS150 mile two-day bike ride that featured almost 1,000 cyclists. He’s done it for years, and as the 34th leading money raiser last year had number 34. He didn’t think much about it until another cyclist pulled up beside him and called out “Hey, Number 34! I like that number!” It was Herschel Walker. He later got Hershel’s autograph on his number 34, which isn’t the worst souvenir in the world.
In college football we’re going to take a look at UConn. Randy Edsall has done a terrific job with the UConn program, and though they haven’t been challenged yet this season after two easy home wins over Army and Liberty, it wouldn’t surprise us if they are better than people expect. Last year it seemed like Connecticut relied too much on QB Dan Orlovsky (now backup for the Detroit Lions). Edsall has built some good depth in his young program. Georgia Tech took care of the Huskies rather easily last year 30-10 as an 8-point favorite. Now the number is higher, and Tech this is a flat spot after important close wins over Auburn and North Carolina. Having handled Connecticut easily last year you can’t blame the Jackets for looking ahead to their conference revenge matchup at Virginia Tech next week. With more interest in this ballgame, UConn could hang around here today. Go with Connecticut.
We rode Miami over the total with success in the space late last season, but we’re going to suggest the under in their game at the Meadowlands on Sunday. The Dolphins have a good combination of savvy vets and energetic youngsters and should play with some intensity against a Jets team that struggled mightily on offense. We also don’t see Miami lighting up the scoreboard in this one with their mediocre offensive personnel and a good Jets defense. Look to go under the total, especially if this line doesn’t dip below 37.
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Have a great weekend. Good luck and be careful.