Hud Made the Right Call – From the Bird’s Nest
When it was over, I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.
And that's pretty unusual. I've learned to never get too high or too low when calling a game, at least inwardly. Even with "Cajuns Win" X6 last December, the feeling was as good as I've had, yet I know, because I was working, it didn't hit me like it hit a lot of fans.
But this one really hurt.
After all these years of butt-whippings and almosts (and there were a lot more of the former), the Cajuns fell short, again, against a school from an AQ conference.
This hurt worse than 25-24 against Auburn in 1992 or the close calls against Oklahoma State and Mississippi in 1986. It hurt more than the close calls against Illinois and Kansas State. It hurt more than losing 77-7 to Ryan Leaf and Washington State.
And, as we got ready for the trip home and made the 90 minute flight to Lafayette, I had plenty of time to re-live the game.
And, upon further review, I believe the Cajuns and their coaching staff did everything they could to win the game.
Now, you should know, unlike the majority of you, I'm really not much of a second guesser. The dumbest coach on the planet knows his team better than I do and knows the game better than I do. (He also knows all of that better than you do, but I'm not here to preach....). No, rather than point a finger, I'm more about going over the options the coaching staff had during certain situations.
And, as the referee would say, upon further review, Mark Hudspeth's decision to play for overtime was the correct one.
Yeah, I didn't think you'd like that. In fact, first one to say I'm covering for the coaching staff because I have to gets a Tootsie Roll.
And I understand. If there's one thing I've learned about fans is they can't stand it when a coach decides to play for the extra period. In fact, as the game ended I could hear in my mind what Dan McDonald was going to be deluged with on "The Rage," which airs on Sportsradio ESPN1420 after the broadcast of Cajuns games.
WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY DOING?
YOU DON'T PLAY FOR OVERTIME ON THE ROAD!
WE WERE PLAYING NOT TO LOSE.
IT WAS PRETTY OBVIOUS WE WERE SATISFIED IN BEING CLOSE.
THE COACHING STAFF CHOKED.
Now, I don't know if Dan got every one of those, but I bet I'm in the ball park.
The fact of the matter is, I've never met a fan who thought with more than a minute on the clock, that a coach should play for overtime.
YOU PLAY....TO WIN....THE GAME......HELLOOOOOOOOOOOO.
(Sorry, channeling my inner Herm Edwards for a minute.)
But I've run the scenarios through my head a dozen times. And, I've come to the conclusion that Hud was doing everything in his power to leave Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with a win.
If we want to point to a time when this one really could have been won, it's when the Cajuns were first and goal at the seven, leading by four points in the fourth quarter. A touchdown there, and this blog could have a totally different subject. And, I thought the play calls were good: A fade to the left, a fade to the right and a screen. In fact, on the Cajuns' touchdown drive, the fade was good enough to get a pass interference call in the end zone. The Cajuns scored on the next play. But the three plays didn't work and Brett Baer's field goal only gave the Cajuns a seven point lead.
Could it have been enough? Yes. Should it have been enough? Perhaps.
I had a conversation last night with a gentleman who suggested the Cajuns needed to be aggressive in the final drive, as they were with San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl, when they drove 40 yards in a half minute.
But folks, the Cajuns weren't playing San Diego State's defense. They were playing the Florida Gators, owners of one of the top five defensive teams in the country. The Florida Gators, who had allowed exactly one play over twenty yards the entire game. Florida, who had allowed 20 points in a game exactly one time before Saturday. That Florida.
So let's see...fans wanted the Cajuns to drive 40-45 yards against that defense with no time outs and about 100 seconds left.
Here are three reasons why playing for overtime was the right call.
1. As I said, it was Florida's defense. The chances of the Cajuns breaking a big play were very small, since they only had one the whole game (the definition of a big play in college football is one that is 20 yards or more.) If the Cajuns are able to get a couple of first downs (they only had 12 in the game) and the clock runs out, great. But the chances of them getting into field goal range was rather small.
2. Terrance Broadway doesn't have experience running the two minute offense. And, in the two minute offense, your chance for a turnover increases because you're hurrying. While Broadway performed admirably, there was no guarantee he wouldn't have made a wrong decision simply because he was in a hurry.
3. If you are aggressive and don't get a first down, now you have to punt it and Florida would be sitting there with 1:20 to go, with two time outs in their pocket.
The only way you can lose by playing for overtime is if you have to punt with 13 seconds left and somebody blocks it.
Well, we all know what happened. And, after it happened we all got smarter. But Hud had a decision to make and he went with the highest percentage of potential success, which is what a coach is supposed to do.
I usually stay away from message boards, especially right after a loss, because folks who hide behind aliases can be downright brutal. I read only a few of the posts and got the "playing not to lose" comment from people who I think are intelligent. In this case, I don't think they are right.
But there were a couple that made me scratch my head. One suggested that Hud "let go of the rope" because he played so conservatively. Honest. Here is a fan who, just eleven months ago, saw the Cajuns win a bowl game on national tv. The Cajuns are one win away from being eligible to go bowling again. That would make two in a row and that's never happened.
Yet some think the coach let go of the rope.
No....if you're going to rip a guy, and I mean rip him (disagreeing is a different thing) either on a message board or on the radio after this game..trust me, YOU are the one who let go.