Monday, October 26, 2009

Lane's Boner

Let's start with the conclusion that Lane Kiffin's decision to shackle his offense when they reached the Alabama 27 with 40 second to go was indefensible. Kiffin had a low trajectory kicker who had just been blocked on a 47-yard attempt. A 44-yard field goal isn't a gimme in the NFL (ask Herm Edwards), let alone in college on the road in the rivalry game against the top-ranked team in football. Kiffin's quarterback was in the zone. His offense was close enough to the Alabama end zone that he could be confident that the Tide would be bringing pressure and it's always an advantage for a play-caller to have a general idea as to what defense is coming. His decision to give up 4-6 plays and settle for the field goal was insanely stupid and I said this before Mount Cody blocked the kick. About the only person who didn't notice Kiffin's mistake was Gary Danielson, who was lying in wait to be excessively technical and yet also wrong when asserting that Alabama should have been penalized for Cody taking off his helmet.

That said, the game illustrated that Kiffin might end up being an underrated coach. Head coaches are often judged on their tactical decisions at the end of close games. These decisions are important and they are easy for fans to judge, but they are also only a small component of being a head coach. Other aspects that are more important, but sometimes harder to judge are recruiting, player development, motivation, and assembling a good coaching staff. Kiffin seems to be doing a good job in all four areas. We knew before Saturday that he's a good recruiter and that he has assembled an excellent staff, although the combination of Monte Kiffin's scheme, which relies on pressure from the front four, and the Orgeron's ability as a position coach, has exceeded even my high expectations.

Tennessee has now been able to play at an emotional high for three rivalry games in the space of a month, which is not easy. Finally, Kiffin deserves some credit for Jonathan Crompton's progression as a passer. If you would have told me after the UCLA game that Crompton would have the best day of any passer so far this year against the Alabama defense, I would have given you the look that I used to reserve for panhandlers when they told me that they were scientists lost in Atlanta after a conference. The offense is supposed to be Kiffin's strong suit. I still don't love Tennessee's scheme, but I do like the way that Kiffin has brought the trigger man along. The Vols are 3-4, but this has been a more encouraging debut season for the Laner than I was expecting.

3 comments:

Washington Hogwallop said...

Good stuff, agree with everything but your statement that Danielson was wrong in asserting Mount Cody should have been penalized.

Based on the rules he should have been. The helmet was off at almost the same time the ball reached the ground. I thought it was kind of silly to bring it up - but it technically should have been a penalty so he was wrong only in his judgment to mention it.

The more interesting commentary would be that Alabama just beat a 3-3 team by two points at home (who missed three field goals) - thus their previous consensus amongst many people of being the most dominant team might be in question.

But for him to have mentioned that would have made his previous comments about playing for a national championship and their upcoming "war" with Florida in the SEC Championship (he didn't say "possible" matchup) look silly.

Lets keep in mind that they haven't played LSU and anyone who can remember the last few years of college football should know better than to write-off a supremely talented and early season underachieving LSU squad. They still control their destiny.

Michael said...

Andy Staples had a piece at SI.com explaining that the penalty would have been treated as a post-play foul even though it took place during the play, so even calling the penalty wouldn't have changed the result. Even if Danielson would have been right, there is no way in the world that a ref should call a sportsmanship penalty on the final play of a close game.

I agree that LSU presents major problems for Alabama. If LSU's offense is rounding into shape, then they are a more balanced team.

Washington Hogwallop said...

Interesting rule, especially since it was third down and UT would have had another kick had they recovered and a penalty been called.

You could argue that a 500lb guy throwing his helmet up in the air in the middle of the play might have an impact on recovery of a live ball (maybe it lands on someone).

I agree that it shouldn't be called in the situation regardless.