The Final Play at Malone Stadium – From the Bird’s Nest
One play at the end of the game that had no bearing on the winner certainly has gotten bigger than the game itself, hasn’t it?
Well, if you’re a Louisiana-Monroe fan looking for a mea culpa, you came to the wrong blog.
Louisiana scored on the final play of a 40-24 win over ULM on Saturday when quarterback Terrance Broadway threw the ball as far as he could in order to kill the final four seconds of the game. Wide receiver sophomore Jamal Robinson ran under it, caught it and took it 81 yards to the end zone for the final margin of the game.
Hey, I’ve been doing Cajuns football for 21 seasons on the radio and for eight years on television before that. I’ve seen teams score at the end of the game when the game wasn’t in doubt.
And, trust me, I’ve seen the Cajuns on the receiving end of most of them.
The reaction by some ULM fans was pretty predictable. In fact, the reaction has been similar to reaction by some Cajuns’ fans when the proverbial shoe has been on the other foot.
But all of this raises a question that is really open for debate and really the “rest of the story” behind last night’s final play.
In a game that is decided in the final seconds, how long to you keep playing to win?
It’s pretty obvious, for ULM Coach Todd Berry, the answer is “until the very last play of the game.” And I have no problem with that answer.
But, if that’s the answer, then the answer can be the same for the other team as well.
Let me explain.
Saturday night the Cajuns had a first down deep in its own territory after Jemarlous Moten picked off a Cody Wells pass. There was 1:45 left in the game and ULM had one time out left. Pretty much over, right?
But Berry did what competitors do. He called his final time out after the first down play. That pretty much insured the Cajuns couldn’t run out the clock. Freshman Torrey Pierce carried two more times and the Cajuns let the clock run down and called a time out so as not to incur a delay penalty with :04 left.
Now, the options here were many. Louisiana coach Mark Hudspeth could have had Terrance Broadway take a knee (but that wouldn’t have run out the clock.) He could have gone back into the end zone, run around and taken a safety, as Middle Tennessee’s Logan Kilgore did against Western Kentucky on Thursday.
The Cajuns came to the line of scrimmage, and Todd Berry decided to send all eleven players after the quarterback.
Now, down ten points with four seconds left, there are only two reasons a coach would blitz on a play like that: He’s either going to try to knock the ball loose and get a quick touchdown (and hope time doesn’t run out) or he’s trying to injure someone on the other team.
Now, I do not for one split second think Berry was trying to hurt anyone. You don’t become the head coach of the United States Military Academy at West Point unless you’ve got some integrity.
No. Berry was still trying to win the game.
And, if his team was going to play until the final whistle, the Cajuns had the right to do the same.
Now, were the Cajuns trying to score? I have no idea. Mark Hudspeth, in his postgame press conference said that wasn’t the intention. I have no evidence that would indicate he’s not telling the truth. That’s good enough for me.
Several people I talked to said Robinson should have gone to the ground. Perhaps. But when you’re a 19 year old sophomore that’s gotten your best opportunities in the last two games, it’s pretty easy to figure out when you catch the ball, you keep running. I have no issue with that, either.
No, it’s really simple. If one team is going to play until the final whistle, neither that team nor its fans have a right to complain if the other team does the same and it results in a score.
I have been incredibly consistent about my feelings concerning teams who score one last time when the outcome has been decided. And, when someone calls my radio show to complain or meets me after a game to voice displeasure, my answer is always the same.
Next time, play better.