Friday, October 07, 2005

GT Game Addendum: Coaching Decisions

Let's skip ahead to the second half...

In the third quarter, NC State had three drives--the first two ended in punts, the third ended with an interception (that was, like, legitimate and stuff).

Both of the drives that resulted in NCSU punts were halted on the Georgia Tech side of the field. In the first instance (and the first drive of the second half), the Wolfpack had a 4th-and-14 at the Tech 40. I can live with the decision to punt there--it was probably a little too long even for John Deraney, and we had no reason to believe that Jay Davis could convert that first down. And with the way the defense played in the first half, it couldn't hurt to play conservatively at that point. We'd kept the field position in our favor for most of the first half, and if Deraney could pin the Jackets again here (which he did), there was a good chance we could control field position in the second half as well.

I can't take issue with the punt even though it turned out Tech went on a long TD drive. Charlie Weis might disagree, but he's actually got a quality quarterback.

The next Wolfpack drive ended in a much more borderline situation, however. State had a 4th-and-6 at the Tech 35, and again Amato decided to punt (and the Jackets were again pinned inside the 5 yard line). Regardless of the nice work by the kick coverage guys (namely Marcus Hudson), punting in this situation was not the proper move. I think you gotta throw the punt out of the equation once your offense gets inside the 40 (and, as I've discovered, game theory more than agrees), especially if you've got a manageable 4th down--like 6 yards for a first down, for example. Going for it isn't the only option. You could also have Deraney come out and attempt a field goal; frankly, I'm disappointed that this wasn't more seriously considered. We know Deraney's got the boot; he's shown off on numerous occasions during halftime warmups. Not to mention that he's hit a field goal from that distance during a game.

Instead of staying aggressive, the coaches punted the ball and we lost our last legitimate possession on Tech's side of the field. We would score later on the slant to BC, but that brief sprint was the only other time in the second half where the Pack had the ball on Tech's side of the 50.

Tech didn't score on the immediate drive after the Wolfpack punt, so I'm not second-guessing because they went on another lengthy scoring march. I'm second-guessing because it seems evident that the payoff outweighed the risk. We just weren't willing to gamble.

In the 4th quarter, when State got the ball back with 5:15 left, Georgia Tech had 2 timeouts left. After converting one third down, the Pack quickly found itself in another third down situation. There were less than three minutes left, Tech had only one timeout left, and State only needed a yard.

Out of one of our familiar WCO formations--a one back set with three receivers bunched right next to the offensive line--Marc Trestman called a toss to the bunched side (wide side) of the field. Toney Baker received the pitch and got some decent blocking, but was stuffed as he turned upfield. It's been argued that we should have simply run straight at Georgia Tech, possibly with Reggie Davis carrying the ball.

I don't have a problem with the toss for a couple of reasons. For one thing, that play had netted nearly 8 yards on first down. Secondly, and more importantly, I think Toney Baker cut up the field too quickly. Had he sprinted around his blocks to the outside (rather than cutting up into the area between the bunched recievers and the OL), I think he'd have gotten the first down easily. It looked to me like the two receivers near the edge of the play had created an effective seal. But Toney cut it up sooner, which allowed the Tech defenders who were initially behind the play to more easily catch up to him.

I'm not criticizing Toney here, just using him to make my point--after all, the fact that he did quickly cut up the field indicates that he understood the situation. In short yardage situations, it's obviously not a good idea to dither in the backfield for too long. Toney recognized this; he's a smart guy. He knew that if he attempted to run to the outside, there was a chance (albeit not much of one in this case) he could get strung out and tackled for a loss.