Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pete Carroll -- brain freeze or gutsy call?

The NY Post's Mike Vaccaro says Pete Carroll harkened back to his days as a failed coach of the NY Jets in deciding to go for the first down on 4th-and-2 from the Texas 45 with 2 minutes left instead of pinning Texas either (a) deep in its own zone or (b) getting a touchback and 25 extra yards that Texas would have to work past.

This was Carroll's Chuck Noll moment: going for it just over midfield in an attempt to run out the clock -- something Noll's Steelers did in Super Bowl XIII. Unlike Noll, Carroll did not have a top-flight defense to cover an offensive failure. Thus, when the Steelers honked, the defense bailed out the offense and the team hung on to a 35-31 win over the Cowpatties. When LenDale White -- whom everyone knew had to get the ball b/c this wasn't a fourth-and-inches lean-job that Leinart could stretch part of his 6-foot-5 frame for -- took off, the whole Texas D keyed on him and made Carroll's Call a failure.

Tough call. But I'm inclined to agree with Vaccaro. It will be conventional wisdom in the next few years, and as college football lore is repeated, that USC wouldn't have stopped Young because he simply is that good. And that may be true -- but pushing him back at least 25 yards would have forced Texas to run more plays, take more time (remember, he scored with 19 seconds left and if every extra yard means an extra second on the drive -- a reasonable correlation -- Texas loses) and forced the 'Horns to run out of time before Young could pull off another spectacular play. Stopping him would not have been necessary; making Young run out of time would have sufficed.

Now, as for calling timeout during the two-point conversion . . . THAT was stupid. Let UT have the two and you can get more yards for a better FG try if you still have the timeout on that final drive. You also have more of the field to work with b/c Leinart wouldn't be confined to sideline routes for passing (remember, in college the player is "tackled" when his knee goes down so Leinart could throw down the middle, have the receiver take a knee, and not have to wait for a defender to touch the ball carrier before the play is dead and USC could get the TO). Get the FG, tie the game at 41 and bang away at each other in OT.

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