OK, maybe not brilliant. What I would have done would have been to call timeout with :40 left and set up a play to get a first down, and then take a few shots towards the end zone. But, if you take that kind of play out of the equation, the decision to take one shot to the end zone and, if necessary, a field goal attempt, was great.
An acquaintance here was criticizing Miles, and was wondering how I could stand to have a coach who was so stupid. I gave him the timeline of the play (the call gets to the huddle at :18; the snap comes at :09; the ball is thrown at :07; Byrd catches it at :04; clocks runs to :01) and told him that under those circumstances, and with a 5th year senior at QB, there was no chance of the clock running out, and if it had, there would have been a video review. He told me, "Most coaches, in that situation, would have run the ball to the middle of the field and called timeout to kick a field goal."
If true, most coaches are damn fools. Here's why:
- College kickers are extremely unreliable. If you saw Ryan Succop of South Carolina, one of the best kickers in the SEC, miss an overtime, tying 41 yard field goal by about 7-10 yards two nights ago, you saw an illustration of how unreliable college kickers are. And he's one of the BEST. Our kicker is middling at best. Every time I see a college coach deliberately decide to put a game in the hands of his kickers, I wonder if that coach actually watches football. I'm not talking about situations where you have one play to win a game here. I'm talking about coaches who get close to the end zone and then decide to run it to the middle and set up a field goal. Those coaches are playing with fire because quite a lot of kicks are shanked or get blocked, or are simply missed.
- It was the absolute last thing Auburn was expecting. That gave it a fairly good chance of success, and while the DB on the play was able to keep up with Byrd, he was completely turned around and had absolutely no help. The risk of an interception was minimal (much less, I would say, than the risk of missing a long field goal).
- They were absolutely in control of the timing of the play. As Miles revealed, there was only one read on the play. If there was safety help on Byrd, Flynn was to throw it away. If there was not, Flynn was to fling it to him. And as shown, the ball reached Byrd with :04 to play. Believe it or not, coaches generally have a good idea of how long it takes to run a play, particularly a bang-bang play like that, and they know it doesn't take 9 seconds.
- "But what if it was tipped and batted around?" Have you ever seen a ball batted around for 4 seconds? Oh, you have? Have you ever seen a ball batted around for 4 seconds with only two people in the picture? I'm betting you haven't.
- What if Flynn had been sacked? Well, the play was designed to get the ball of quickly, so the risk of that wasn't all that great. But if he had been sacked, we would have called timeout and kicked a field goal.
- In addition to some inherent risks of running a pass play (sack, interception), there was also a good chance that the defender would get a pass interference penalty, setting up a relatively easy field on the final play. In fact, it appears from replays that had the ball fallen incomplete, there very well may have been a flag for interference.
In other news: Rumors continue to swirl about the incident at the Varsity. People claiming inside information say all sorts of things. I'm prepared and ready for anything to happen, but as of right now there is really nothing to report on it.