November 06, 2008

Rushing Gone Wrong

This isn't meant to be a tirade at the atrocious play calling that spelled last week's doom, though a quick tangent never hurt anyone.

Among the many questionable and debatable plays that can be pointed to, the most offensive error in coaching, in my mind, occurred at the end of the 1st OT, trailing by a field goal. Armando Allen rushes 7 yards on 1st down, setting up 2nd and 3 from the 3. Mind you, this was Allen's third carry in a row after pick ups of 8 and 7 on the first two plays. I kept waiting for #33 or #34 to sub in and be trusted with punching the ball into the end zone. One run up the gut would have probably been sufficient. A 3rd and Goal from the 2 should have been another run into the heart of the Pitt defense. And if faced with a 4th and Goal from the 1, wouldn't Charlie love an opportunity to win and validate his emphasis on pounding the ball with his heavy horses? 3 plays to make 3 yards. Put the game on the shoulders of your biggest, baddest ball carriers. If they can't do that, you don't deserve to win.

What does Charlie elect instead? A sweepish run with a gassed Armando, who loses a yard, followed by a difficult pinpoint pass to the corner on a double-teamed Mike Floyd. 4th and 4 is a little different than 4th and 1, and the ensuing FG, given the change in circumstances, was the right call. But the taste of victory that had formed in my mouth was gone. A loss felt inevitable.


Glad that's out of the way. I want to address a misguided attempt by a few undergrads worried about their fleeting opportunities to do the time-honored non-tradition among student bodies. I speak, of course, about rushing the field. Here's the letter to the editor with the ridiculous plea for students to rush the field after the Syracuse game. Next time I see Cameron, Matt and Chris walking around the quad, I'm going to bombard them with the Bad Call Brick.

Frankly, it's a waste of time to discuss how bad an idea this is. In lieu of such targeted venom, it got me thinking that there should be a test or checklist that students sitting in the first row of any stadium must consult before leading the charge. I'll spare you the grandparent admonition "It's trespassing" and "It leads to riotous crowds where kids get hurt" angle. Both are valid and the latter is a serious concern. But this is college and kids will be kids and darnit! when it's warranted, students should rush the field.

If your students rush the field, they better meet one or more of these criteria, though an * asterisk hangs over every reason for reasons enumerated below:

Defeat #1 Team in Country - Perfect example from this year when Oregon State knocked off USC. When you beat #1, you earn your brief moment in the sun. Make it count.

Defeat a Rival that you had not beat in at least 10 years - Anyone have a good example of this happening in recent memory? When Vandy beat Auburn this year, that would have been a perfect opportunity for the Commodore to cut loose and celebrate years of angst, but they didn't, probably because the game met one of the asterisked criteria below.

Defeat the Defending Champs - The Class of '02 started with a bang, beating defending champion Michigan in 1998, prompting our first and only trip onto the field. It turned out to be the apex of our undergrad football experiences. I recall an entrepreneurial student made t-shirts our senior year to the effect of "10 Favorite Bob Davie Memories for the Class of 2002" with the Michigan win at #10 and the rest of the numbers blank.

Win in an Unexpected, Come-From-Behind, Amazing Finish - I'm talking on par with The Play finish. I know these are very rare, but it's the spontaneity of everything that compels the team and student body to share in the moment together.

**Reasons for inappropriate rushing, which immediately opens your school and student body up to ridicule and scorn:

You're ranked higher and/or expected to win the game - Act like you've been there. Here's a writer harping on Pac-10 errors in rushing judgment.
Anytime you are the defending champion - Again, act like you've been there.
You lose the game - this was a fuzzy area with the '05 ND-USC finish since the clock technically read 0:00. But anyone watching intently instead of worrying about rushing knew that was wrong. A funny instance of "fans who got it wrong" came in the Bluegrass Miracle, where Kentucky fans already on the field decided to rush. My favorite is the suited student who comes to a halt mid-sprint and realizes the rest of his weekend is suddenly less exciting.

So ND students, I implore you. Do not enact the above picture. Do not denigrate a Syracuse victory that should be in the bag by halftime by rushing the field for your own selfish reasons. You've got USC at home next season to look forward to, not to mention a highly ranked basketball team with plenty of great home matchups. Throw your support and lust for rushing to that cause. (A different set of criteria apply to basketball court rushes with so many fewer students involved. We'll revisit this in the winter doldrums).

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