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Armed Forces Bowl clock management

Posted by John Reed on

In yesterday’s Armed Forces Bowl, Army waited until :03 to call timeout for the winning FG kick. That is straight out of my book Football Clock Management. You may think I cannot take credit for that.
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Before my book, coaches called such FG timeouts in high single digits or even with double digits left on the clock. I’ll give you a famous example. In the 1982 Cal-Stanford Big Game, Stanford QB John Elway got his team into winning field goal range and called time with :08 left. After the good kick, there were :05 left. Also, Stanford excessively celebrated drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty enforced on the ensuing kickoff to Cal.
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Using 7 laterals, Cal ran the kickoff back for the game-winning TD. During that play, the game clock ended and the Stanford band, too dumb to know that the game ends on the whistle, not the clock, marched onto the field drawing more unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Had Cal not scored by running over the trombone player, they would have gotten a second chance on a really short half-the-distance penalty enforcement against the band.
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And let me give you the rule in my book verbatim. It leave no room for variations from :03.
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John T. Reed’s Clock Management Rules
1.21 Last-play-of-half clock stoppage
Wait until three or fewer seconds are left before stopping the clock or snapping for a final scoring attempt, either a field goal on any down or a run or pass on fourth down, or a run or pass if fewer than :07 left.
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There is an entire chapter in the book titled “Final Play Field Goal.”
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As a consequence of my book and my column on clock management in American Football Coaching Quarterly, almost all NFL and NCAA teams switched to :03 for calling timeouts before a field goal.
The reason for :03 is that is how many seconds a field goal play typically takes from snap to passing the goal post.
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Regarding clock management on MO’s last drive:
That is covered by a long chapter called “Pace Graph” in my book. Pages 167 to 176 of the book are pace graphs labeled A through J. The ones that MO should have been using were G and H—NCAA TD because they needed a TD.
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The graph lets you look up your field position and time remaining in the game. Initially, they needed to be in a hurry up. But as they moved down the field at a rate of about 12-yards per play it seemed, the graph would have told them to stop being in a hurry up and switch to a slow-down. I doubt they did that.
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Ironic that MO may have lost to Army by failing to read and implement a mandatory for all football coaches book written by a graduate of Army.
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Football Clock Management, 5th edition

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