I read a lot more these days. What used to be busy work during high school and college has become something I do daily to pass time between tasks at work. One person I have taken to reading at the beginning of every week is Granland's Bill Barnwell, an NFL writer who is some kind of cross between a football super computer and the guys over at Study Hall. His weekly column, Thank You For Not Coaching, looks at the kinds of plays that deserve second guessing and the UMass Minutemen would have been featured prominently this week if Barnwell watched college football.
It is tough to say whether or not it would land in the top or bottom three calls of the week -- admittedly, I don't watch enough games to make that call -- but it Charley Molnar's decision to go for two trailing 31-30 with 22 seconds to play on Saturday against Western Michigan is one that merits discussion. There are two sides to this decision, both of which are chalk full of merits and its hard to say that either call would have been the right one. All we know is what happened: A.J. Doyle missed a wide-open Elgin Long and UMass lost for the seventh time this year.
So what was the right call? Should Molnar have kept riding the wave of his offense's momentum as he did, hoping they would come through with the three yards he needed? Or should he have put the game on the foot of a kicker who missed a 22-yarder earlier in the game and expect his defense to win the game in overtime? These are all questions that Molnar addressed after the game and used as rationale for his decision.
The argument for the conversion attempt is a simple one: UMass had just marched down the field, was averaging more than the three yards it needed for the two points and had just two wins in its last 20 games so going with the "David" strategy seems only natural. Doyle unfortunately brought a hand gun to the line instead of a slingshot and Long couldn't handle the ball. He was open, the Minutemen simply didn't execute.
That last part, which could be seen as a positive, is also the chief argument against going for it in that situation. This isn't a prolific offensive team with a history of getting the yards it needs. These are the 1-6 UMass Minutemen. Trotting out Blake Lucas for an extra point may have felt like an shaky proposition given his recent history, but the success rate of extra points is much higher than two-point conversions and a kick all but guarantees overtime. Once you're there, keep riding the momentum wave and hope your defense can win you the game.
The team's strength all season has been the defense and not giving them a chance to help win the game seems like a disservice to that unit. Would they definitely have kept Western Michigan, which scored 31 points anyway, from scoring on a short field? That much is unclear. But when you have a winnable game, you have to increase your odds of closing the game, not play with fire.
With all of that said and the game now done, it is hard to say that Molnar was wrong. He trusted his guys and just because they didn't come through for him doesn't make it the wrong call. I would have kicked the extra point and extended the game, but that is just my philosophy on football.
I am interested to hear what you all think, so please answer the poll question and let your thoughts be known in the comments.