For those of you who like footie (or even people who don't, but are interested in critical moments in recent sports history), I highly recommend Jonathan Wilson's piece in The Guardian about Manchester United's defeat at Old Trafford against Real Madrid and the tactical rethink that Alex Ferguson underwent as a result. To briefly summarize, Real came to Old Trafford and whipped United with a new formation that dropped a midfielder back and thus allowed an attacking midfielder and the two fullbacks to get forward and menace the United backline. Real jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Ferguson was able to take countermeasures. The game convinced him to move away from a 4-4-2 and instead deploy a variable formation with one striker and various players from the midfield popping up in attacking areas. This flexible approach is what made Cristiano Ronaldo into such a devastating force. He could play as a striker, a right winger, a left winger, or an attacking midfielder. The defense never knew where he was coming from. Also, the flexible formation allowed Ferguson to vacillate between very attacking set-ups against overmatched opponents and very defensive set-ups, such as the park-the-bus formation he rolled out at the Camp Nou in 2008 with Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez as auxiliary defenders.
The article got me thinking about college football parallels. I'm looking specifically for games in which a smart coach saw his approach exposed and made tactical or strategic changes that laid the groundwork for future success. Here is the best that I can offer right now:
1. Tom Osborne responding to various beatings at the hands of Miami and Florida State by recruiting a new class of faster defenders from the Sunbelt. A Nebraska fan would have to chime in with details on what specific loss it was that caused the re-think. (If you want to go in the other direction, Nebraska's 31-7 loss to Texas in 2003 caused the program to overreact and abandon the offensive system that had made the program great. As Georgia Tech has shown this year, the rationale that defenses are too fast and good to handle option football is totally wrong. I'm now waiting for someone to bring back the wishbone.)
2. Steve Spurrier realizing the importance of a good defensive coordinator at some point during the 1996 Fiesta Bowl thrashing at the hands of a now-faster and meaner Nebraska team.
3. Florida State's come-from-behind win at Georgia Tech in 1992 that led to the Fastbreak offense, two national titles, two Heisman winners no longer under center, and FSU's ludicrous domination of an allegedly major conference for nine seasons. Conversely, Georgia fans might point to the loss at home against Auburn in 2001, after which Tommy Tuberville chided Richt for not running the ball enough. I would argue that, two SEC titles in four years be damned, any turning point that involves taking offensive advice from Tommy Tuberville is not a good one.
Now that I think about it, this is a Chris Brown question.