Saturday, January 07, 2006

Where USC went wrong.

I am a little shocked that days after the National Championship, no one in the sports world is talking about the truly puzzling playcall that most directly led USC to lose the game against Texas.

I am, of course, NOT talking about the fourth down and two call. EVERYONE'S talking about that, but there's nothing to talk about. That call was the right decision. You've won the past thirty some odd games. You've got two Heisman Trophy winners on you side and a running back whose outplaying them both. And given the choice between playing Texas, who can win the game, and the clock, who can't, you would of course rather keep the ball and play the clock.

The play didn't succeed, but that's the way it goes. It's the title game. You got to win it.

I go to the Easterbrook school of football, and matriculating there enables you to see the plays-between-plays that really add up to defeat. In USC's case, the bad decision was made on second down and seven. The play was a pass call, Leinart throws incomplete. The game was lost the minute the pass call was made. The incomplete pass stopped the clock. As the game came down to 19 seconds left, winding the clock or forcing Texas to burn a time out was critical strategically. It may have even set up a better third down play or avoided the fourth down altogether. I know that USC is a crazy good passing team, but that fact, having been established, didn't need to be proven again in that moment. As it stood, they passed and failed, and now Texas is champs.

Also, who calls timeout before a two point conversion? You trying to ice the entire team, coach?


pu pu head said...

they were forced to call a timeout because they had their field goal defense on the field. which begs the questions... why didn't pete know they would go for two? in that situation is stopping the two point conversion and preserving the chance to win with a field goal more important than keeping your timeout so you can move down the field and tie with a field goal?

hindsight is a 20/20 bitch.

The Deceiver said...

True. Pete should have known instintually that tactics favored a two-point try. That time out was something he absolutely needed in his pocket -- Leinart could have had the middle of the field open to him on that final play instead of looking to pin the sideline. Pick up even fifteen yards, and you have an attemptable figgie.

One thing's for sure though. That was a titanic fuckin' game.

DailyProse said...

I just had one of those farts that ended up being more than a fart.

The Deceiver said...

Ha! In some parts, they call that "brewin' uppa pot of butt coffee."

My friend Susan used to say, "Ooops. Looks like we hit mud."

PK said...

Yeah, I've been thinking about this since you mentioned it the other day, and I'm unconvinced. A short pass from Leinart is a pretty safe play, especially when a) you need at least one first down to truly beat the clock and b) the entire other team knows/thinks you're going to run. Carrill (sp?) weighed the risks: On one hand, you could run and probably not get a first down, which allows you to run the clock down a little more but still punt with plenty of time for Texas to come after you; on the other, you pass and give yourself the opportunity to close out the game by getting a first down, but with the possibility of throwing incomplete. Maybe he didn't make exactly the call that I'D make, but it's pretty facetious to second-guess what is a pretty reasonable call by a guy who had won 34 games in a row.

I DO agree about the timeout, although I thought it was a 12-men issue, not a one vs. two defense issue. That's poor game management. I wonder who was responsible for that...

AlieMalie said...

it was when USC pulled on the facemask of one of the Texas players, IMHO, gave Texas five yards and THEN there was the issue with the passing.

ah well, Texas won.

what's that saying?

oh yea, "Don't Mess With Texas."


The Cut said...

Both Heisman winners had turnovers in the first half. USC's defense had no idea what to do with Vince Young. Young should have won the heisman. Too bad the media had already given Bush the award when they were leaving the downtown athletic club right after they gave it to Leinhart last year. The commentators had already given the Rose Bowl MVP to LenDale White before the game ended. I also hope I never have to see Daddy Leinhart in the stands ever again.

AlieMalie said...

oooh, I'm with the cut on daddy lienart. seeing him time after time got gross after a while.


The Deceiver said...

Also, no more Brady Quinn's sister.

SamuelAlito said...

1) People who cannot spell the coaches name (or even look it up) should not comment.

2) You are correct as always that the pass call is absurd. With White and Bush both in the backfield, you can play for the 4 yard run every down and have no problem (remember they had already MADE one first down before they stalled out).

3) The bad fourth down call came early, not late, when they should have kicked a field goal to go up 10-0.

4) The whole game was fixed by the administrative management of the New Orleans Saints, hoping that they could find a way for Reggie to fall to #2

The Deceiver said...

Oh, man. Can we even discuss the straits New Orleans is in with this draft? What viable top five pick wouldn't pull an Eli-slash-Elway if N.O. pulls their card? My thought is to deal it for a slate of early round picks next year, dump the roster and rebuild under a new coach. I think Leinart's already sent out the hint that he doesn't want the Saints to draft him.

cuff said...

Don't the Saints already have a quarterback in Bobby Hebert?

USC's main problem was Young. He's very good, but they didn't seem to have anyone watching him.

adam said...


1. Good to see you are back in the fold...I still think you should have been hired to run Wonkette permanently.

2. I understand your thinking on the play call that was bad, but might I add one other that has not been mentioned? During the USC drive right before the Texas drive to score the winning touchdown... USC should have punted the ball and pinned Texas at their 5-yard line. Pete Carroll made too many risky play calls during this game. I blame him.

adam said...

So, after re-reading what you wrote, I guess I basically disagree that USC should have gone for it on 4th and 2 yards to go. They didn't succeed on the 4th and 1 to go when they could have kicked the field goal in the 1st quarter (I hate to agree w/ your judge alito commenter).

Ah hem.

The Deceiver said...

Sure, punting looks good now! But in that moment, it really looked like bringing the USC defense on was going to be doom. Maintaining possession was critical.

Or, maybe I just hate punting.

Well, at any rate, it's all moot if you don't have Vince Young under center, isn't it? No, USC stupidly had no contain on the right side of the field on that fateful fourth-and-5, but part of me wonders if it would have made a difference. Young was just so in the zone--especially in that second half.

The knock on Young is his "release". I'm not sure it'll really matter.

adam said...

He'll be a 5-7 year QB in the pros for two reasons: (1.) Running QBs don't last long; and, (2.) His release is horrible.

Note Peyton Manning. PERFECT release, happy feet, and no running.

This is why Leinert should do better in the NFL, assuming he tightens up his game and audible calling.

SamuelAlito said...

Something that should be under consideration is Young's future in the NFL as a running back. He is a scrambling quarterback who needs too much time to throw, but shows every indication that he could be a quality running back.

By the way a 5-7 year NFL career is not exactly chopped liver.

PK said...

Hey Alito,

Your ever-alert spelling surveillance missed adam's reference to "Leinert". While I'm at it, you should have written "cannot spell the coach's name", not "cannot spell the coaches name". At least I pointed out that I didn't know the spelling (I thought it was something non-obvious and not just Carroll, but I guess I was wrong - way to "catch" an error that I called out myself!) But I digress...

Vince Young is no running back. There is no such thing as a 6'5", 233-lb running back, in the NFL, college, or wherever. But as an astute student of the game, I'm sure you already knew that.

SamuelAlito said...

I would claim that I already had a long day, but you already know that.

Anonymous said...

DCeiver what medication did your parents have you on as a child as it didn't work as you are fucked up as they get.

SamuelAlito said...


I should refine my statement. I didn't mean to make you upset or offend you. I was just looking for cheap humor at the expense of someone I don't know, and I now realize that was wrong.

As for running backs, Eddie George is 6'3 and doesn't seem to have too much of a problem. I'm trying to think "outside the box." It's also possible that Young's scrambling ability could work downfield as well and he could switch to WR, which is far from unusual for college quarterbacks. I just think that, oddball delivery or no, a team is going to find a way to prosper with this player.

Also, $20 million could be a big incentive to taking a few months and changing your delivery, if it comes to that.

PK said...

OK, thanks for the retraction.

I appreciate that you're trying to think outside the box, but he would be like the tallest RB in the history of the league - and most guys above 6' that play that position weigh in the 250s, like Mike Alstott and Greg Jones (who are only like 6'2"). Young would get killed by his fifth run up the middle.

Now, I agree that WR might be a fit - guys like Antwaan Randle-El, Hines Ward, Ronald Curry, and Matt Jones were good college QBs that could run. (And while we're at it, Joe Theismann was a punt returner when he got to the NFL, I think...) He's the right size for that position.

But the difference is that Young is a far superior QB to any of those guys. He's a better QB than most "natural" QBs playing in the NFL. (I mean, Mike McMahon, anyone?) Randle-El, Ward, and Curry, are all guys that were deemed too short to play QB in the pros (as were Charlie Ward and Doug Flutie, who went elsewhere out of college), which is why they switched in the first place; and Jones was lucky to get drafted in any round. No such problem with Young. If Michael Vick can play QB, Vince Young certainly can.

PK said...

By the way, good luck today with the grilling and all.

ilb said...

You saw this from Eaterbrooks column today, right?

"The decisive play was not, as the sports-yak world said, the fourth-and-2 attempt by USC with 1:54 remaining. The decisive play came two snaps before. Leading 38-33, the Trojans had second-and-7 at the midfield stripe with about 2:15 remaining. On the night, Reggie Bush and LenDale White combined to average 6.2 yards per carry. Run here and run again on third down, and the first down that seals the game is likely. Instead USC called a flat pass to fullback Brandon Hancock, a spot player with nine receptions on the season; clang. Hancock caught the ball on the same play in the third quarter, but that meant Texas had already seen the trick of throwing to the guy you've never heard of -- three Longhorn defenders were around Hancock. The incompletion on second-and-7 stopped the clock. Had USC rushed on that down, seconds would have continued to tick away and probably the clock would have run out on Texas. This is so basic, yet coaches mess it up all the time: when you're ahead at the end, keep the clock moving! By stopping the clock with an incompletion, USC left enough time for Texas to score the winning touchdown with 19 seconds showing."


Dr.ake said...

Sweet revenge! Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy (more arrogant SOB) than Carroll! Ha! And by the way, Tuck Fexas. First time I've ever wanted any team from Texas to win anything. Great game, though.