By Steve Williams
Shred the analytic data on football tendencies for when to go for a touchdown or when to rush the quarterback.
Let someone else keep up with the chart that tells when it’s best to go for two points after a touchdown. Who needs a cheat sheet for that anyway?
In crunch time – when the game is on the line – you want to be ahead by seven points not six or by three not two.
When it’s not crunch time, play it safe and go for one.
As for clock management, when it’s crunch time and you’re trying to protect a lead, instruct your quarterback to let the play clock run down to a couple of seconds before the ball is snapped.
It’s not rocket science. It’s football. It’s simple.
Also, treat timeouts like gold. Always keep one in your pocket in case your team is about to become the victim of a run-off penalty situation. Give Tennessee head coach Butch Jones credit for doing such and we saw a prime example of it in the closing seconds of the Vols’ game at Florida.
I wish I could say the same thing for Butch’s offensive and defensive strategy in crunch time against the Gators.
Tennessee had played so well up until its offensive possession with 4:09 remaining. Florida had just scored a touchdown and kicked an extra point to pull within six points at 27-21.
I had a sickening feeling when the Vols went three-and-out on three running plays.
Butch’s strategy was to make first downs, keep the clock ticking and force Florida to use its timeouts. However, the three running plays failed to move the chains and put the ball back in the hands of the Gators with 2:18 to go.
Jones’ defense then rushed only three linemen and got no pressure on the Florida quarterback on a 4th-and-14 situation and the Gators made him pay with a 63-yard touchdown play to go ahead by one.
With 1:26 on the clock, Tennessee tried to win the game again. It ended up getting to the edge of field goal range. Aaron Medley missed badly on a 55-yard attempt but got a second chance by virtue of Florida head coach Jim McElwain calling a timeout prior to the kick.
I really thought Medley would make the re-kick. He drilled it long enough but it tailed off slightly to the right.
Another much-needed victory for this Tennessee program had slipped away.
But I don’t put any of the blame for this loss on Medley. The Vols should have never been in such a predicament down the stretch in the first place.
I felt bad for the Tennessee players. They had played well enough to win.
Perhaps Coach Jones could have prevented the heartbreak losses against Oklahoma and Florida if only he had followed a couple of the maxims handed down years ago by General Neyland, the winningest coach in UT football history and a coach Jones reveres.
Maxim No. 2 of General Neyland’s seven maxims, if applied, would have prompted Jones to go for a touchdown, not a field goal, in the early going against Oklahoma.
It reads: “Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way – SCORE.” Todd Kelly’s interception had given the Vols the first break of that game. I doubt Neyland would have capitalized “score” unless he meant touchdown.
Neyland originally collected a list of 38 maxims he felt best described how to achieve success in the game of football, and if Jones had put No. 30 from that list into practice, his strategy on the 4th-and-14 play against Florida would have been just the opposite.
It reads: “Be aggressive, you can’t win the game on your side of the scrimmage line.”
Study those maxims, Butch. If you’re wise, you’ll use them in the future.