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Theorems and Stratagems of the Game, Week 8: There are more than 15 minutes on the clock. Time to pass.


Sometimes, when you think something is going to change your whole life, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You spend so much time trying to safeguard against the potential misfortunate or adapting to the anxiety-inducing change that it changes your life in ways it might have if you had just tried to ignore it.

It seems like that might be happening with the new clock rules. Even by Gary Danielson's always dubious calculations, teams are losing about 10 percent of their snaps to the new clock rules (40-second play clock, out-of-bounds only stops the clock until ball is marked for play). That's probably six to seven plays a game for each team, two or maybe three a quarter.

Sure, that changes a little in the fourth quarter -- teams can now, without gaining a first down, run down a clock with 2:15 or more on it if the other side doesn't have a timeout, as opposed to the old rules, which you could bleed about 1:30 off. Even so, it's not a major change; so why are coaches so willing to go against all logic and change their offenses too early?

So come with me to the end of the 3rd quarter of the Mississippi State-Tennessee game Saturday. The Bulldogs are down 13-3 with 1:34 left in the quarter; a full 16:30 has yet to be played. Sylvester Croom decides to throw the ball with reckless abandon.

Now, if your passing game is the strength of your offense, you should throw the ball, particularly if it's guided by a steady quarterback known for his poise and decision-making ability.

Mississippi State's quarterback is Tyson Lee. He does not fall into this category.

But Sly decides to throw and throw and throw. Beginning on their own 20, the series goes rush, pass, sack and (to start the fourth quarter) interception. Tennessee can't do anything on offense, and Mississippi State gets the ball back at its own 20 with 13:43 left on the clock. Series: pass, incompletion, incompletion, rush, pass, rush interception.

This pick is returned for a touchdown. Now, the Bulldogs have gone from being down two scores to being down three. Now, they almost have to pass. And they do pass, or do whatever Mississippi State does when it's trying to pass. The next series: Pass, rush, interception returned for TD.

I wonder if there are any NFL assistants' jobs open...

At this point, Croom decides it might not be Tyson Lee's day, and decides to put Wes Carroll in. The rest is essentially garbage time.

In fairness to Croom, the offense had experienced only sporadic success running the football. But, still: Your quarterback is Tyson Lee. If you're in a fight, you don't try to stab your adversary with a baseball bat because you're afraid it's too light to knock them out. You swing and hope it'll work.

Mississippi State could have at least saved face by trying to run more in the late 3rd/early 4th quarter. Instead, the play-calling turned a close game into a blowout.

But the biggest coach in the game agrees with him. And by biggest, of course, I mean Mark Mangino. Again, we're in the 3rd quarter of Jayhawks' game against Oklahoma, Kansas down 31-24.

To that point, (Kansas RB Jake) Sharp had rushed for 98 yards on only nine carries — an average of 10.9 yards per rush. He had just crafted his way right through the Oklahoma defense to bring Kansas within seven points and appeared almost unstoppable.

But despite being down by only one touchdown with still more than nine minutes remaining in the third quarter, Mangino and the coaching staff decided that they had to switch from the ground attack to the air. ...

The Jayhawks punted on three-straight possessions before Sharp saw the field again and ended up punting on five-straight possessions following the touchdown. The Hawks eventually scored late in the game to make the final margin 45-31 in favor of the No. 4. Sooners. (HT: Rock Chalk Talk)

Help me here. What's the problem with running the ball, say, once? Are you going to burn a timeout to stop the clock at the 9-minute mark of the 3rd quarter? (At which point the entire coaching staff should be summarily dismissed.) You have 24 minutes to score. Joe Paterno, crutch and all, could run the length of the field in fewer than 24 minutes, even if he got tackled a few times along the way.

Or, put in RCT's words: "What was Mangino thinking?" (My guess: "Mmmm. A bagel would be good right now. Actually, a Sam's Club crate of bagels would be good right now.")

Maybe he wasn't thinking at all.

Got a complaint about your team's play-calling? E-mail garnetandblackattack (at) gmail (you should put a "dot" here) com. We'll feature it in next week's edition.