You don't play for overtime on the road. Coaches get this, they preach it and they playcall as such. Hey, remember this play by Miami?
What Michael Haywood tried to finagle here on a 4th and 10 play on the Central Michigan 21 was a huge roll of the weighted dice. What was supposed to happen: line up in the polecat formation, have Dysert pitch it to the kicker, and see if he can run 10 yards for the first down. This risk didn't work; in fact it compounded problems since kicker Trevor Cook missed a couple weeks with a knee injury. (As we've heard in the past, Haywood actually blew this because it was a formation for Seth Phillip, the backup kicker.)
The score at the time was 0-0 in the second quarter. High risk, modest loss ... because otherwise it's a 38-yard field goal worth three points. That's not enough to win in Mount Pleasant, LeFevour or no LeFevour.
Sidenote: On that same day, WMU ran the polecat against Notre Dame on a 4th and 1, and you obviously go for that in South Bend (already down 7-0). Carder got the conversion, the drive continued, and he finished with a score
So Haywood flubbed a risky play but he was able to recover. Ho hum. Because then this happened with the game knotted at 20-20 in the fourth:
That was Zac Dysert on the toss and Andrew Cruse on the catch. It's wasn't particularly risky, but a lot could've gone wrong on this 3rd and long situation. Quite honestly, Miami could've killed clock. The Chips had just one timeout and weren't going to touch it. Instead MU took a calculated risk and it worked out by hitting Cruse on the vertical strike. (The blown coverage was just a blessing.)
And the Chips STILL had an outside shot at coming back to tie it. With 19 seconds, they got to midfield.
It's the MAC. It's not a Big Ten or SEC school that can wear down the opposition. Shots to win the game must be taken whenever possible, especially on the road. If Oklahoma is playing Kansas and they have the ball there, you probably run a draw play on third and long, and set up for overtime.
But bold moves and potentially drastic plays are usually the ones that define seasons. It sure as heck defined Michigan State's. Miami did win the MAC Championship on a desperate 4th and 20 play, but they had no choice but to attempt that basic vertical pass that was fortunately tipped into the right person's mitts.
But even before that game, you could see Haywood at least trying to close out games on the road, not "hold on." A few weeks before that they were playing winless Akron, and struggling mightily. MIGHTILY. Up only two points in the fourth quarter! Miami needed a TD to demoralize the Zips, because two scores? That's ludicrous — UA already scored twice!
On a 12-play drive, the RedHawks passed seven times. They really tried to stick it in the end zone. They ended up with a field goal. Despite not going for a fourth down at the Akron 14, they still played it aggressively.
You don't have to be "Little Giants" ballsy to be bold. (Although it helps.) And as luck has it, former MSU playcaller Don Treadwell now gets to make those decisions for Miami in 2011. I don't see them repeating even as MAC East champions, but with the right risks taken, I could look foolish.