Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween 2006 to all Sports Fans

Happy Halloween 2006
Our Pumpkin Cat for Sports and Cat Fans Everywhere


HAPPY HALLOWEEN 2006.
No matter how you or your team do in competition, just keep smiling!
It's just a game.
You will win some and lose some. That's life.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Win...or...Go : Nebraska Huskers Football Coaching Falters Again

Don't worry about USC Coach Carroll

The big news of course this weekend was Oregon State's upset of USC 33-31, even though the Trojans put up a valiant battle after falling behind 33-10 on numerous turnovers. They nearly came back to tie the score in the last seconds of the game, failing only on a 2-point try after a last second touchdown.

Goodbye Harris ?

Perhaps USC was looking forward to their assured upcoming romp over the Stanford Cardinal, who will be lucky not to lose 100-0 on November 4. USC will be steaming after their loss to Oregon State. If Carroll were to turn on all burners, it could probably become the most lop-sided game in NCAA history. In this case, even though we are a Stanford alumnus, we are rooting for USC, under the motto: Goodbye Harris. We hope. Goodbye Harris.

Goodbye Callahan ?

The University of Nebraska football coaching staff gave us new evidence that they do not have things under control in Huskerland, thus adding to an already extensive list of previous blunders. The Cornhuskers raced to a 16-0 advantage quickly, only to blow that lead and lose 41-29 to Oklahoma State. No well-coached team is going to have that kind of turn-around happen to it on the field. We followed the offensive playcalling and it is abysmal, terrible, awful. Nebraska would do better in its playcalling by pullng plays blindly out of a hat.

Also the defense was in a state of confused somnambulance, although credit has to be given to Oklahoma State for playing well and exploiting the obvious Husker coaching lapses. Perhaps the defensive coaches were spending too much time watching the UCLA - Notre Dame game last week, for what else could explain the Huskers permitting a 45-yard score with just seconds left on the clock in the first half. Talk about stopping your momentum. Did that ever happen to Devaney or Osborne? NEVER. No one even worried that it would happen. And there was a reason for that - coaching competence and fan confidence in that competence. But with the present coaching staff, one worries about these kinds of things all the time, thinking, when will the next "misfortune", as Callahan has labelled the coaches mistakes, occur.

Callahan's crew continued their unenvious record of dismal performances in the 2nd half of play. We do not know what is told by the coaches to the Husker players between halves, but whatever it is, it should stop. Apparently, given the results that are being achieved, the coaching staff at NU is generally unable to adjust to the game situation after halftime, leaving that kind of preparation to the opposing coaches. What else can explain the lackluster performance of the Huskers in the 3rd quarter and the total collapse in the 4th.

Top coaches such as Larry Kehres at Mount Union are lauded for getting the most out of their players and out of their team - they apparently play at full potential - most of the time.

At Nebraska, one has the inescapable feeling that a team of very good players is in the hands of the unskilled, playing far below potential most of the time and being hampered in reaching their potential by what appears to us often to be inane playcalling on offense, plus inept formations on defense. It is a shame. We think that the Nebraska team is better than the results.

The first series of downs against Oklahome State demonstrates - in our opinion - one aspect of what ails Husker football (play-by-play from Yahoo sports):

Nebraska - 13:05
1st-10, NEB25 13:05 B. Jackson rushed to the right for 11 yard gain
1st-10, NEB36 12:17 B. Jackson rushed to the right for 8 yard gain
2nd-2, NEB44 11:38 B. Jackson rushed to the right for 7 yard gain
1st-10, OKST49 11:21 B. Jackson rushed to the right for 16 yard gain
1st-10, OKST33 10:48 B. Jackson rushed to the left for no gain
2nd-10, OKST33 10:22 B. Jackson rushed up the middle for 24 yard gain
1st-9, OKST9 10:22 M. Lucky rushed to the left for 3 yard gain
2nd-6, OKST6 9:31 Z. Taylor incomplete pass down the middle
3rd-6, OKST6 9:18 Z. Taylor passed to T. Nunn to the left for 2 yard gain
4th-4, OKST4 9:15 NEB committed 5 yard penalty
4th-9, OKST9 9:15 J. Congdon kicked a 26-yard field goal

As one can see, Jackson runs down the field virtually all by himself to start out the game and then the playcalling is suddenly changed radically inside the 10-yard line, with passes called on 2nd and 3rd downs inside the 6-yard line and one pass going only for 2 yards. How about sending the receivers into the end zone and trying to score ?

In any case, the passing game was suddenly resorted to, where it had not yet been necessary anywhere during the initial drive. They were rushing well - why stop?

We APPROVE of the Huskers throwing more and URGE that they do so, also with longer passes and not just nickel and dime stuff, much more than they have been throwing, but not in a situation where your running game has been going beautifully. You throw when your running name is NOT working.

In our view, the Huskers were lucky not to get an interception against them. Instead of the touchdown, they and of course had to settle for a field goal, in a situation where a touchdown was mandatory. This inability to score in the red zone bears no resemblance to the great Husker teams of old but it is one sure sign of what we might label "Callahanitis", the affliction of fear to enter the end zone, and the inability to stick with a good thing when that thing is going well or to change INSTANTLY when the plan being used is not working. Stick with the good. Abandon the bad. Really, the strategy is quite simple and easy to apply.

Here is a thought for the Husker staff: if you run on first down and the rush generally leads to a two or three yard gain, then you have little choice but to pass on the following down, and the defense knows that and prepares accordingly. But if you PASS frequently on first down, then the defense can not afford to play too tightly, because you might just run now and then, in which case you retain all options and keep the defense guessing. In my opinion, running on first down is less effective, unless you have the likes of Jim Brown in your backfield and also possess the offensive line to open the holes for him. Otherwise, come out throwing LONG and SHORT and keep the defense loose. THEN you can run. Gee, is that so hard to learn?

We take a hard line in this matter. The salaries paid to college football coaches are high, very high, and they are paid that high for a reason. The people paying the salaries expect results. If college football coaches were pulling the kind of average salaries that John Q. Citizen makes, frankly, we would not care, win ... or ... lose. After all, it's just a game.

But given the in part astronomical amounts being paid to college football coaches, there is only one alternative and that is, Win...or Go.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Stanford University Needs a New Football Coach : Why not Larry Kehres?

Stanford University is marked by a unique once-only-in-America culture of academic plus athletic excellence.

But this spirit of excellence, which has spawned the likes of John Elway, Jim Plunkett, James Lofton and John Lynch, today has one major flaw - and that is the Stanford football program.

As a Stanford Law School alumnus, we follow the fate of Stanford University football with more than academic interest.

To our distant view, something is seriously wrong in the Stanford University football program this 2006 season. It is not just the bleak 0-8 record which Stanford has compiled thus far this year, but the fact that the team was nowhere in contention in 7 of these 8 games in a disastrous performance showing a football program headed straight for the rocks.

Indeed, given the schedule that Stanford has yet to face this year, as opined by Daniel Novinson at the Stanford Daily: "Stanford football may be on the road to its first winless season since 1960 — a prospect that grows increasingly likely by the week."

What has happened to Stanford football fortunes?

New athletic director Bob Bowlsby (formerly at Iowa) has most certainly not won our confidence by declining to speak to the press about this matter for the article, "It won't be an easy fix for Stanford football", by Michelle Smith, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer.

Alex Gyr at The Stanford Daily in his "Sports brief: Football coaches make mass exodus" reported that when the current head coach Walt Harris came to Stanford in December of 2004, there was "a complete overhaul of the Stanford football coaching staff" as "seven new assistant coaches" were brought in.

But these changes only led to a 5-6 losing season in 2005, and, what is more significant to this observer, led to many assistant coaches then LEAVING the Stanford football team after that season for greener pastures, so that five new assistant coaches again had to be hired prior to this season. That is quite a game of musical chairs and points to some kind of a problem at the grass roots.

We attended Stanford as a student - there are NO greener pastures than Stanford. If people leave Stanford in masses, something is amiss. What is causing this mass exodus from the coaching staff?

Harris is known as a "disciplinarian". Is an authoritarian style proving to be the wrong solution for players and assistant coaches recruited to a school at the top of the nation academically and athletically? Is a particular style of football being autocratically imposed on players (and coaches) who are not suited for it and who were not recruited for it? Are the many injuries we are seeing in part being caused by unnecessary overwork of the players in practice (contrary e.g. to the sensible and successful systems of Larry Kehres of Mount Union and John Gagliardi of St. John's, who limit physical contact in practices to reduce the risk of injuries).

As reported by Rick Eymer of the Palo Alto Weekly in his February 04, 2005 article "Stanford football recruiting focuses effort on defense, when Harris initially came to Stanford, he concentrated his recruiting on defense, recruiting only THREE offensive players that year and this may in part explain why the team today has virtually no offense at all.

Of course, there are other serious problems at Stanford as well, as identified by Michelle Smith at the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Greg Biggins, high school recruiting analyst for Superprep Magazine ... said he's seen a drop-off in the quality of Stanford's recruiting classes in recent years ... I don't know that it has anything to do with raising (academic) standards....

Biggins said Stanford is still the only major-conference program in the country, to his knowledge, that requires potential student-athletes to apply and gain acceptance to the university before an athletic scholarship offer is extended. And only Notre Dame's academic standards approach Stanford's, Biggins said.

Stanford's recruiting restrictions have been compounded by coaching turnover, not only at the head coaching spot -- Harris took over for Buddy Teevens in December 2004 to become the Cardinal's third head coach in four years -- but among the assistant coaches. In this offseason alone, Harris hired five assistants to his staff."

The major problem to this observer appears to be Harris's authoritarian approach, with which he is simply at the wrong university. As reported by Alex Gyr of the Stanford Daily in his May 2, 2005 article, It’s a new day for football under Walt Harris:

"Throughout the Stanford football program, Harris’ influence is recognizable. The Cardinal brought in seven new assistant coaches, most of them on offense, as well as a different offensive system and a whole new attitude.

“I think the biggest challenge with the new staff and the players that we have is to get our style across to them and get them to execute it,” Harris said. “I think our players are excited about something different. I think our players are excited to try to get better, but I think how they go about doing it is more of a struggle. I think we’re not there yet in reaching them, I’m sure we reached some of them but we need to reach all of them.”

Not surprisingly, bringing change certainly hasn’t been easy. Through 15 days of spring practice, Harris has struggled to get his new message across to many of the players.

“What we teach is pretty basic,” Harris said. “But sometimes it takes time for players to decide to change old habits and sometimes old habits are hard to change.

Harris' disciplinarian style and offensive acumen have not yielded a quick turnaround for the Cardinal....

... the discontent has begun. Harris is being criticized on Internet message boards and even in the broadcast booth, where Walsh and Jim Plunkett, who won the Heisman Trophy when he quarterbacked Stanford, questioned some of the coach's decisions Saturday night against Navy."

Here is our view as a Stanford alumnus. We think that Harris has absolutely no future as the head football coach at Stanford, where an "authoritarian" system will simply not be accepted, nor is it in the spirit of "The Farm". Quite the contrary, rather than forcing a particular style of football down the players' throats, as Harris has apparently and unsuccessfully done, what Stanford needs is a coach like Larry Kehres of Mount Union, who describes the road to success - CORRECTLY - as follows:

"Some years you don't have the kind of players you need to say, run the option,'' he said. 'As a coach, you can't just do what you want to do. You have to match it to the ebb and flow of the kind of players you have.' ''

Harris on the contrary, as we have cited above, has his own system, regardless of the players he has at his disposal, and it may thus be no wonder that the team is demotivated and decimated with injuries, being forced to play a system of football to which they are not suited and which they do not want to play.

It is time for Stanford to acknowledge that it has hired the wrong coach for Stanford.

Stanford should hire a coach with a proven and unprecedented "culture of excellence" such as Larry Kehres of Mount Union. Such a coach, the BEST in the business, would fit Stanford as the nation's top academic+athletic university.

Jack Ewing, president of Mount Union College, is quoted by Milan Simionich at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as saying about Larry Kehres and the football team:

"This is a culture of excellence that I have never seen before."

That looks like a perfect fit for Stanford. And if Kehres were unwilling to move from Mount Union, perhaps one could hire one of his proteges, so that this "culture of excellence" finds its way to the new Stanford football stadium and to the young men playing in it.

Harris refers above to the fact that some of these young men at Stanford are not understanding what he is "teaching" and that it is "a struggle". Larry Kehres tells us, however:

"I always try to get the assistant coaches who work with me to understand that if there's no learning by the kids, there's no teaching," said the 56-year-old Kehres, whose 29-year-old son Vince is one of the assistant coaches. "I've tried hard to get the coaches to accept that as the only measure of performance, and there are just no excuses accepted. If there's no learning, there's no teaching....."

Harris - erroneously - puts the onus on the players.

Kehres puts the onus - properly - on the coaches.


Update - View these posts by others about Stanford football

at the Sporting News
Tagaitan's SportingBlog
Staying the course
Edwards done as QB
The return of the Magic 8-ball!
You know what they say about when it rains

at the Stanford Daily
All wrong now: the voice of a frusturated football fan
October 16, 2006, by Daniel Novinson
A letter from a football fan is posted and it really lets the coaching staff have it - and frankly - they deserve what they are getting. Among other things, it is pointed out that Stanford head coach Harris is after 1 1/2 years of no success still playing a 3-4 pro NFL defense with players who are collegians. That same fan writes:
"But ultimately, any amount of talent is constrained by the coaching staff’s gameplan. And that’s why the lion’s share of the blame lays at the feet of the men with the clipboards....
Am I the only one struck by the irony as our coaches lead an unprepared team to battle in a beautiful new stadium?"

at the Mercury News
Kawakami: Timing was wrong for Trent Edwards

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Correct Football Strategy and Tactics in the Closing Minutes of Close Games

Football teams win or lose for a reason, and good or bad coaching is often that reason.

The college football weekend was marked by several last-minute wins (Notre Dame over UCLA, Texas over Nebraska) as well as an NCAA record come-from-behind victory by Michigan State over Northwestern, coming back from a 38-3 deficit in the 3rd quarter to win 41-38.

Football coaches can learn a lot from those and similar games, as follows:

NOTRE DAME 20 UCLA 17

ESPN carries an AP report on Notre Dame stuns UCLA on last-minute 45-yard TD in which we read:

"Quinn, under pressure all day by a relentless UCLA defense, completed three straight passes in the final 62 seconds, capped by a 45-yard TD pass to Samardzija, to lead the Irish to a 20-17 come-from-behind victory over the Bruins on Saturday. [emphasis added]

"Good teams win games like that," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. "Good teams at the end of the game somehow, good teams make a play at the end of the game to win." ...

Dorrell said the Bruins didn't try to pressure Quinn as much on the final series...."We tried to play more coverage," Dorrell said."

And there you have in a nutshell why Notre Dame won that game and why UCLA lost. The Fighting Irish at the end were playing TO WIN. The Bruins at the end were playing NOT TO LOSE. We find this comment at Stewart Mandel's College Football Blog by an anonymous poster:

"Unbelievable. This was another example of horrible play calling down the stretch by our coaches at UCLA. With under three minutes to go, instead of aggressively trying for a first down by PASSING the ball like we had all game, the coaches decide to RUN up the middle for three straight plays. Yes, it made ND use their timeouts, but there was plenty of time left for them to comeback even without their timeouts. A first down there would have sealed the deal.

THEN the horrible, horrible PREVENT defense. Unbelievable. 4-man rush and our DB's leaving plenty of cushion. This was an example of a team playing not to lose instead of playing to win...." [emphasis added]

As the perspicacious Stewart Mandel writes in his Saturday Observations Part II:

"Despite having successfully pressured Quinn all day, UCLA went with every fan's favorite, the prevent defense, when the Irish took over at their own 20 with 1:02 remaining. Two uncontested Quinn passes later, ND was at the Bruins' 45. On what would be the fatal play, UCLA nearly got to Quinn with a four-man rush, but he scrambled to his right and hit a streaking Jeff Samardzija, who not only slipped past the coverage but then juked the last possible UCLA tackler out of his shoes en route to a 45-yard touchdown."

There is a big difference, as we have previously pointed out, between champions and non-champions in the element of fear. Champions play fearlessly in order to win, whereas non-champions are afraid of losing. In order "not to lose", UCLA on the last series of downs abandoned its "relentless defense" and went into more passive downfield coverage, giving the Notre Dame quarterback the time to throw which he needed, and which UCLA had otherwise been denying him during the game. This tactic cost UCLA the game. A successful ongoing fearless "winning" strategy was abandoned in the closing minutes of the game in favor of a more fearful "losing" strategy.

That is the reason that, as Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said: "good teams win games like that" - it is the mark of champions. Such teams continue to be aggressive and try to win down to the last second, whereas non-champions duck for cover. Had UCLA continued to give the Irish quarterback relentless pressure on the last series of downs, it is unlikely the Irish would have scored a touchdown in that short time period.

CAL 31 Washington 24 (OT- in overtime)

California made a similar mistake against Washington and was lucky to escape with an overtime victory, as Washington completed a deflected 40-yard pass against a similar "prevent defense" as in the ND-UCLA game to tie the game as time expired in regulation play.

The Cal player who deflected the pass pointed unknowingly to what may be a wide-spread (?) coaching deficit in college football, i.e. the lack of preparation of players for what they should do in particular situations:

"I just tried to catch it -- and knock it down," Bishop lamented. "I've never even been in that situation before. I didn't know what to do."

Obviously, as an integral and essential part of coaching and teaching, players SHOULD be taught by the coaches what they are to do in particular game situations. That is the ESSENCE of coaching - preparation.

ESPN in the AP report Miracle catch forces OT, but UW can't overcome Lynch, Cal writes:

"We thought we had it wrapped up, and then I thought Doug Flutie was out there," Cal linebacker Zack Follett said.

Football coaches also have to keep in mind and also teach their players, as Yogi Berra once so succinctly stated:

"It ain't over 'til it's over".

MICHIGAN STATE 41 NORTHWESTERN 38

No coach and no team had to learn Berra's lesson more painfully than the Northwestern Wildcats who squandered a 38-3 lead in the 3rd quarter (the comeback starting with only 7 minutes to play in that 3rd quarter) to lose 41-38, the greatest comeback in NCAA Division I-A football history. As reported by ESPN through the AP's Spartans stun Cats for biggest comeback in I-A history:

...first-year Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald...took the blame for his team losing momentum...."

And well he should.

As written by Steward Mandel in The Agony of Defeat of his alma mater:

"As you know, college football is a game of momentum. When the Wildcats were in the midst of their 38-point explosion, they could no wrong. Bacher was on fire. And because the Spartans’ defense had to contend with Bacher, suddenly RB Tyrell Sutton was running wild. The offense’s success seemed to be rubbing off on the defense, which continually stymied Michigan State QB Drew Stanton....

But once it got to 38-3, the offense backed off. Stanton started performing target practice on the suddenly helpless defense."

The job of the coach in this situation is to regain his team's own momentum as early as possible and block the opponent's rising momentum. This - based on our observation of basketball games, for example - used to be one of John Wooden's recipes for his phenomenal success at UCLA, calling timeouts much earlier than his fellow coaches when the tide of momentum seemed to shift against his team. Most coaches call timeout and regroup after a run of points against them has already been made - when it is too late and the damage has been done. The time to regroup is BEFORE that happens.

BAYLOR 36 KANSAS 35

Kansas was another team which suffered from the change of momentum caused by its coaching staff in shifting to a conservative rushing game after halftime in order to preserve, but not to increase its 35-17 lead. Through a scoreless 3rd quarter, Baylor was then given plenty of time to lick its wounds and summon up new courage. Kansas then did not know what hit it as the 35-17 lead that they still held with 10 minutes to play in the 4th quarter dissipated into a 36-35 loss as Baylor filled the air with footballs. By the time Kansas also starting passing again, it was too late.

TEXAS 22 NEBRASKA 20

Good coaching has something to do with knowing one's players and calling the right plays in the right situation. Terrence Nunn has a history of fumbling and was definitely not the right call in a tight field situation at the closing minutes of this game. Nunn had already fumbled and perhaps cost the Cornhuskers the Missouri game in 2005. He fumbled in the 2006 USC game and in the 2006 Kansas State game. In the Texas game on the reception in question, he was holding the ball way out to the right, presenting an easy target for an opposing defensive player intent on provoking a fumble and knocking the ball away, rather than tackling the runner.

I do not fault here the player Nunn, who is a fine receiver and who has caught many passes for Nebraska during his career, including the Texas game. His fumbling is surely a function of the way that he carries the ball when running, and that should long ago have been corrected by the coaching staff. Since it was uncorrected, Nunn was certainly not the man to pass the ball to in the Texas situation, where retention of possession was critical.

Stated simply, passing the ball to Nunn in this situation was a crass coaching mistake - and that is what distinguishes the winners from the losers, and the great coaches from the average coaches.

Winning means making the right decisions at the right time - both as to playcalling as also to having the right players in the right place at the right time. You do not call the number of a player with a history of fumbleitis in this kind of a critical game situation.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

College Football Ranking Systems, Retrodictive Accuracy and Cyclic Triads

So, you know all about sports?

Then the concepts of "retrodictive accuracy" and "cyclic triads" should be familiar terrain to you.

As B. Jay Coleman informs us in his article, Minimizing Game Score Violations in College Football Rankings, Interfaces 35(6), pp. 483–496, ©2005 INFORMS:

"[R]etrodictive accuracy is equivalent to minimizing game score violations: the number of times a past game's winner is ranked behind the loser".

Unfortunately, this is not always possible, since, as Coleman informs us, we face the problem of "cyclic triads", where Team A beats Team B, Team B beats Team C, and Team C beats Team A.

Nevertheless, the amount of retrodictive inaccuracy in college football ranking systems is far greater than cyclic triads alone would engender, Coleman has found that even the current best ranking system from the standpoint of retrodictive accuracy still contains violations which are at least 38% higher than the minimum which can actually be achieved.

Coleman thus developed a minimum-violations ranking solution - MinV, which ranks football teams so that the minimum number of retrodictive violations occur. As Coleman writes:

"The minimum number of game score violations MinV identified for the NCAA Division 1-A college football seasons from 1994–2003 was far superior to the numbers that 58, 68, 75, and 93 different ranking systems (Massey 2004b, c) produced in the years 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003, respectively. Massey did not report ranking violation statistics prior to 2000."

He then examined the college football games from 1994 to 2003 and applied his results:

"to determine whether the consensus top five teams in any of these 10 seasons would have been changed if one had enforced a minimum violations criterion."

Using his system, the national champion would not have changed, but the rankings of teams below Nr. 1 would have changed, in part, substantially:

MinV ranking (Actual Massey Consensus Ranking in Parentheses)

Year...Number 1...........Number 2............Number 3...........Number 4..........Number 5

1994...Nebraska (1)......Penn State (2)......Colorado (3).......Alabama (5).......Texas A&M (8)
1995...Nebraska (1)......Florida (2)...........Tennessee (3)......Florida St. (4)....Colorado (5)
1996...Florida (1).........Ohio St. (2)...........Florida St. (3).....Arizona St. (5)...Nebraska (4)
1997...Nebraska (1)......Michigan (3)........Florida (4)..........Florida St. (2)....Tennessee (5)
1998...Tennessee (1).....Ohio St. (2)..........Florida St. (3).....Wisconsin (4).....Florida (5)
1999...Florida St. (1).....Nebraska (2).......Va. Tech (3)´......Michigan (4)......Kansas St. (5)
2000..Oklahoma (1).....Nebraska (8)........Washington (6)...Miami (FL) (2)...Florida St. (3)
2001...Miami (FL) (1)...Tennessee (3)......Florida (2)..........Oregon (4).........LSU (9)
2002...Ohio St. (1)........Miami (FL) (3).....Georgia (4).........Oklahoma (5).....Texas (6)
2003...LSU (1)..............Southern Cal (2)..Oklahoma (3)......Georgia (4)........Miami, OH (6)


Table 3: Although the national champions would not have been affected, the remainder of the consensus top
five NCAA Division 1-A college football teams for the 1994–2003 seasons often would have been adjusted
had a minimum-violations restriction been enforced (consensus rankings are in parentheses). I used Massey’s (2004b, c) consensus rankings for 1996–2003 and the final Associated Press poll in 1994 and 1995. Massey did not report a consensus ranking for 1994or 1995.

Coleman also examined:

"whether the participants in any of the BCS national championship games from 1998 through 2003 would have been altered by a minimum-violations restriction."

The answer is yes, as this table by Coleman shows:

............Minimum
............number of........Actual BCS..................................Participants with
Year.....violations........participants................................MinV adjustments


1998.....41...................Tennessee, Florida St...................Tennessee (1), Florida St. (2)
1999.....58...................Florida St., Va. Tech.....................Florida St. (1), Va. Tech. (2)
2000....51...................Oklahoma, Florida St....................Oklahoma (1), Washington (4)
2001....51...................Miami (FL), Nebraska...................Miami (FL) (1), Oregon (4)
2002....50...................Ohio St., Miami (FL).....................Ohio St. (1), Miami (FL) (2)
2003....59...................Oklahoma, LSU............................Oklahoma (1), LSU (2)


Table 4: The Bowl Championship Series (BCS), begun in 1998, would have
selected different participants in its national championship games in 2000
and 2001 if it had adjusted its final ranking to adhere to the minimum
number of violations (actual BCS rankings are in parentheses).


But note that the retrodictive approach is not a cure-all for ranking systems.

As Coleman himself admits:

[T]he MinV ranking may not make the best predictions of future games; as Martinich (2002) demonstrated, retrodictive accuracy does not necessarily result in predictive accuracy. However, no prior researcher has assessed the relationship between these two perspectives, because none have developed systems that optimize the retrodictive component (as measured by violation percentage) for college football. MinV allows that as a future research objective.

The entire article is definitely worth a read here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sports Law and Violence

There is little doubt - for anyone who takes even the most cursory glance at human history - that mankind is a violent, competitive and dangerous species. Indeed, every news media on this planet caters to the perpetrators and spectators of violence, especially the violence of war, domestic violence, and violence in sports. The greater the evil, the greater the headlines.

We have a private theory that the world is this way because that is the way mankind wants it to be. If we wanted the world to be otherwise, we would change it, would we not? We certainly have had thousands of years to do it, but we have not done it. Violence persists in the world because we condone its presence.

The good, therefore, is not preferred per se over evil per se, but rather it is only the ultimate "victory" of good over evil which is actually desired. For this reason, violence and the presence of evil is a necessary condition for the triumph of good, and that is why evil is present in human society everywhere. It is an enemy to be vanquished, but not one to be totally eradicated.

Nevertheless, in spite of this duality of good and evil, human violence is a costly affair and great evil is costlier still. Civilized peoples thus have developed sensible outlets and forums for the aggression and evil resident in humans.

Chief among these substitutes is the Rule of Law, which, in our view, is a substitute for war and battle. People no longer take part in pistol duels, rather, they go to court to argue their case before an impartial judge, who functions like an umpire in sports.

Sports serve similarly to channel man's warlike nature into bloodless adversary competition, guided by rules and judged by referees.

The problems begin when the civilized "chains that bind" prove too weak to hold in check the chained beasts of violence and evil, and when the thin civilized veneer of humanity is broken to reveal an inner animalistic reality ready to bash in the opponent's skull.

What do we do then?

Sports Law is a specialized field of law
dealing with violence in sports and similar issues.
For an overview, see:

Cornell Law School LII - Wex - Sports Law

International Association of Sports Law (IASL, Olympia, Greece)

National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law
which publishes the Marquette Sports Law Review
and offers the Marquette Sports Law Program

There are many reports in the news recently about violence by players, hooliganism by spectators, and avoidable injuries in sports caused by unnecessary roughness. Sad examples of this are presented by the following cases:

the violence at the Miami - Florida International college football game (USA)
(see also the Sports Law Blog)

shoulder charges and violence in rugby (Australia & New Zealand),

racist behavior by spectators at a soccer game (Serbia)

racist behavior by players at a soccer game (Germany)

beatings and mistreatment of athletes by coaches (China)

hockey brawls (USA)

fights between athletes and fans (Brazil)

inducement to illegal and violent behavior by coaches (USA)

kidnappings and killings of officials, athletes, coaches and/or referees (Iraq)

alleged gang rape by athletes (USA)

the fractured skull of Chelsea goalkeeper and an injury to his substitute soccer goalkeeper (England)

head butt in soccer (France) and its commercial value and commercial exploitation (Italy)

The only long-term solution to the escalating violence in sports might be the application of stricter laws against undesired behavior.

We thus agree whole-heartedly, for example, with the French Parliament's recent passage of a law which gives greater protection to referees in sports by imposing strict sanctions upon perpetrators of violence against referees.
See the article by Christian Châtelet at the UEFA for more details.

See also

Athletes should show respect on and off the field

Leadership cadre faces important choices after brawl by Bill Curry in a special to ESPN.com
In the context of the Miami-FIU brawl, Curry states that fight "participants" can be placed into four categories:

"1. Spontaneous....
2. Peacemakers....
3. The Serious Fighters....
4. The Lethal Few: The ones who ran into the fray looking for someone to maim, the ones who hit people in the back of the head, stomped faces, necks, groins and any other unprotected part of defenseless opponents. They should be out for at least one year, perhaps for life, depending on whether they were successful in ending another career, which was their obvious intent...."


We definitely agree with number four.

There is always a contrary view.
For a contrary view to safety in sports, see Beware The Risk Of Goalkeeping Nannying
by John Nicholson

Reason favors limiting violence in sports by law.
Experience indicates that violence in sports will tend to increase to pander to the primitive tastes of mass audiences. One need only view WWE and their modern gladiators.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

NCAA College Football Statistics : Nebraska Clemson Texas A&M Boise State Louisiana Tech

Comparative scores and statistics are valuable for predicting football games and in ranking football teams, but they must be used with caution since many teams do not play consistently against all opponents. Nevertheless, as Jeff Sagarin writes at USA Today:

"In ELO-CHESS, only winning and losing matters; the score margin is of no consequence,
which makes it very "politically correct". However it is less accurate in its predictions for
upcoming games than is the PURE POINTS, in which the score margin is the only thing that matters. PURE POINTS is also known as PREDICTOR, BALLANTINE, RHEINGOLD, WHITE OWL and is the best single PREDICTOR of future games. The ELO-CHESS will be utilized by the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). "

[Note that the BCS uses the less accurate of the available systems. Why that??]

Let us take one example where the score margin worked as a good predictor (here we do not fuss with the 3.23 points granted to teams as a home advantage).

Early in the season, on September 2, 2006, Nebraska beat Louisiana Tech 49-10 and then followed that with a 56-7 win over Nicholls State on September 9, 2006. Hence the NU margin of victory over Louisiana Tech was 39 points and over Nicholls State 49 points. By comparative scores, Louisiana Tech was 10 points better than Nicholls State. As scheduling would have it, these two teams then played each other on the following weekend, September 16, 2006, and Louisiana Tech in fact won by 10 points.

Since these games all took part on consecutive weekends in the early part of the football season and arguably reflected the relative strengths of the teams at that time, unaffected by later improvement or weakening in the course of the season, we thought that Louisiana Tech might be one of those rare teams that plays to average form nearly every week and thus can be used as a benchmark for ranking the rest of the teams in Division IA football by comparative statistics (though not necessarily by comparative scores, which, when large margins of victory are involved, may be misleading).

In the interim weeks, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs have been soundly beaten by three other teams in addition to the Huskers win by 39 points, these are Texas A&M 45-14 (31 point advantage), Clemson 51-0 (51 point advantage) and Boise State 55-14 (41 point advantage).

As written at Yahoo Sports by AP Writer Keith Ridler:

"It was Louisiana Tech's third road game against a ranked team, and it went about the same as the first two. They opened the season with a 49-10 loss to No. 22 Nebraska, and a week ago lost 51-0 to No. 15 Clemson. "(Boise State) is very similar, right up there," said Louisiana Tech coach Jack Bicknell. "I'm like an expert on Top-25 teams." "

By pure comparative scores, this makes Texas A&M 31 points better than the Bulldogs, Clemson 51 points better than the Bulldogs and Boise State 41 points better than the Bulldogs. If we went by straight scores, Clemson would be 12 points better the Huskers, Boise State would be 2 points better than the Huskers and Texas A&M would be 8-point underdogs to the Huskers. Interesting in terms of rankings on October 8, 2006, is that Clemson is ranked 12th by the AP and USA Today, Boise State 20th and 19th, and Nebraska 21st and 20th respectively by those two polls.

Are those rankings justified by a close examination of all the statistics?

To start out with, it is interesting to note that as of October 8, 2006, Clemson ranks 3rd in the nation in scoring, Nebraska ranks 4th, Boise State ranks 6th (tied with Texas), and Texas A&M ranks 13th. Louisiana Tech has thus really been up against offensive powerhouses. In terms of yards per game rushing and passing, NU is 7th, Clemson is 10th, Boise State is 18th and Texas A&M is 22nd. In our opinion, all of these teams are underrated in the rankings and may all finish higher ranked by the time the season ends.

To get a good idea of the "dominance" of a team, we look carefully at team statistics in the actual games, regardless of scores. In terms of Total Net Yards rushing and passing, the Nebraska margin over Louisiana Tech was 586 to 286, whereas the comparable figures for Texas A&M were 485 to 281, for Clemson 531 to 304, and for Boise State 492 to 338. There was also a significant difference in first down stats, with the Cornhuskers having a 33-13 margin, Texas A&M a 25-13 advantage, Clemson a 21-16 advantage, and Boise State a 24-20 advantage. The turnovers in each game were 2-3 in favor of the Huskers, 1-1 for Texas A&M, 3-5 for Clemson, and a 3-2 disadvantage for Boise State. A last parameter which we regard to be a measure of the relative strengths of teams is simply the number of punts for each team, the fewer the better: this was in favor of Nebraska 3-7, in favor of Texas A&M 5-10, in favor of Clemson 2-8 and in favor of Boise State 1-7.

What about the ability of these teams to pass and rush against Louisiana Tech?

Here are the comparative stats:
Nebraska 252 yards rushing on 48 carries (5.3 avg) 334 yards passing on 24 completions of 36 passes (9.3 avg)
Texas A&M 163 yards rushing on 36 carries (4.5 avg) 322 yards passing on 19 completions of 33 passes (9.2 avg)
Clemson 398 yards rushing on 41 carries (9.7 avg) 133 yards passing on 10 completions of 17 passes (7.8 avg)
Boise State 268 yards rushing on 42 carries 224 yards passing on 15 completions of 23 passes

What about the defenses of these teams against the pass and rush of Louisiana Tech?

Here are the comparative stats:
Louisiana Tech against Nebraska 66 yards rushing on 21 carries (3.1 average) and 220 yards on 13 of 32 pass completions (6.5 avg)
Louisiana Tech against Texas A&M 79 yards on 24 carries (3.3 avg) and 202 yards on 13 of 33 pass completions (5.8 avg)
Louisiana Tech against Clemson 78 yards on 29 carries (2.7 avg) and 226 yards on 23 of 46 pass completions (4.5 avg)
Louisiana Tech against Boise State 175 yards on 35 carries (5.0 avg) and 163 yards on 17 of 35 completions (4.3 avg)

Now lets compare these stats for the Nebraska opponents this season:

Nebraska against Louisiana Tech 252 yards rushing on 48 carries (5.3 avg) 334 yards passing on 24 completions of 36 passes (9.3 avg)
Nebraska against Nicholls State 270 yards rushing on 47 carries (5.4 avg) 237 yards passing on 21 completions of 26 passes (8.8 avg)
Nebraska against USC 93 yards rushing on 36 carries (2.6 avg) 143 yards passing on 9 completions of 17 passes (7.9 avg)
Nebraska against Troy 319 yards rushing on 45 carries (7.1 avg) 282 yards passing on 16 completions of 23 passes (12.3 avg)
Nebraska against Kansas 136 yards rushing on 32 carries (4.3 avg) 395 yards passing on 15 completions of 33 passes (11.3 avg)
Nebraska against Iowa State 277 yards rushing on 45 carries (6.2 avg) 131 yards passing on 17 completions of 21 passes (5.7 avg)

The Nebraska passing stats are simply outstanding.

Louisiana Tech against Nebraska 66 yards rushing on 21 carries (3.1 average) and 220 yards on 13 of 32 pass completions (6.5 avg)
Nicholls State against Nebraska 211 yards rushing on 47 carries (4.5 average) and 0 yards on 0 of 3 pass completions (0.0 avg)
USC against Nebraska 152 yards rushing on 31 carries (4.9 average) and 257 yards on 25 of 37 pass completions (6.8 avg)
Troy against Nebraska 59 yards rushing on 25 carries (2.4 average) and 100 yards on 15 of 26 pass completions (4.0 avg)
Kansas against Nebraska 179 yards rushing on 40 carries (4.5 average) and 405 yards on 27 of 54 pass completions (7.5 avg)
Iowa State against Nebraska 76 yards rushing on 24 carries (3.2 avg) 262 yards passing on 18 completions of 39 passes (6.6 avg)

The USC performance against the Cornhuskers was nothing special when compared to other NU opponents. Indeed, Kansas performed about equally on the stats as did the Trojans. The Huskers lost the game against USC through poor coaching.

These statistics tell us a clear story about the strength of the Nebraska cornhuskers in 2006. USC did not fare much better rushing against the Huskers than the much lower ranked Nicholls State or Kansas. The two games in which Nebraska had the most trouble were USC and Kansas, where the opponent was successful in its passing game. Indeed, the NU pass defense is substantially weaker than that of Clemson or Boise State. Hence, the way to beat Nebraska is passing and the Cornhuskers will have substantial problems with good passing teams. Good rushing teams, on the other hand, will have problems with the Huskers, which have a similarly strong rushing defense to Clemson and Texas A&M.

Looking at the Nebraska offense, it is clear from the above statistics that the Huskers have a much weaker rushing offense than Clemson, and that is one reason why it was absolutely foolish for the Huskers to try to run the ball against USC. What is clear from the stats, however, is that the NU passing attack is even stronger than that of Texas A&M and that the Huskers will win games in the air (but not through rushing). Someone should tell that to the NU coaching staff.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

University of Nebraska Cornhuskers beat Cyclones 28-14 : Huskers Continue to Be Plagued by Poor Playcalling and Coaching

Although the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers beat the Iowa State Cyclones 28-14 Saturday, October 7, the Huskers continue to be plagued by poor playcalling and coaching. Indeed, this year's Husker team is surely much better than its coaching staff allows.

Apparently, the Husker coaching staff has learned little from its previous games, although it is to be complimented for at least coming out throwing in this game.

We initially analyzed the NU-USC game this year and concluded that Nebraska was outcoached by the Trojans and not outplayed. We have since begun to analyze the Husker coaching and playcalling with the stats available online and have found this general view confirmed, for example, in the NU-Kansas game.

We now have found additional evidence of poor NU playcalling and coaching strategy in the NU-Iowa State game. Except for superb defense, the Huskers would have lost this game, and they would have lost because of poor coaching and playcalling, not because it was the worse team.

At a certain level of analysis, statistics do not lie.
Nebraska had 11 possessions of the ball against Iowa State.

On three of the first five possessions, the Huskers threw the football to start the first series of downs on the drive, and these three drives all ended in Husker touchdowns. Obviously, the coaching strategy and playcalling on these drives was correctly intent on SCORING. Note that this initial pass was not always completed, but it showed that the coaching strategy was to MOVE the ball, not just KEEP the ball. Hence, the subsequent playcalling was OFFENSIVE and not DEFENSIVE and ultimately resulted in scores. When the offensive playcalling was defensive, as in the drives started by rushes, no scores resulted. NONE. The coaching staff should already have learned this in the USC game, but apparently, they have not.

On all of the remaining possessions in the game, which all started with a running play, the Cornhuskers wound up having to punt the ball away, excepting only the last drive in the game and excepting one fumble recovery by the Cyclones.

Obviously, after its initial scores, the coaching staff was again intent on BALL CONTROL, which appears to be one of Callahan's coaching traumas, under the motto "it's MY ball, not yours". We have criticized this before as a strategy which does NOT mark champions.

The College Football Resource Blog wrote this after the NU-USC game:

"USC beat Nebraska 28-10, enduring the Huskers' stall ball tactics but otherwise stuffing Nebraska's run at all costs approach."

Ball control means nothing if it does not end up with points on the scoreboard.

Here are the relevant plays from Yahoo! Sports for yesterday's Iowa State game:

1st Quarter
Nebraska - 14:56
[drive started with a pass]
1st-10
, NEB20 14:56 Z. Taylor passed to J. Phillips to the right for 5 yard gain
[drive ended in a touchdown]

Nebraska - 6:19
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB23 6:19 B. Jackson rushed to the right for 2 yard gain
[drive ended with an NU fumble recovered by NU, an NU punt, and a Cyclone touchdown]

2nd Quarter
Nebraska - 13:55
[drive started with a pass]
1st-10, NEB32 13:55 Z. Taylor incomplete pass to the right
[drive ended in a touchdown]

Nebraska - 5:49
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB30 5:49 B. Jackson rushed up the middle for 7 yard gain
[drive ended with an NU punt]

Nebraska - 1:22
[drive started with a pass]
1st-10, NEB40 1:22 Z. Taylor incomplete pass to the right
[drive ended in a touchdown]

3rd quarter
Nebraska - 11:05
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB3 11:05 C. Glenn rushed up the middle for 3 yard gain
[drive ended with an NU fumble recovered by Iowa State]

Nebraska - 8:40
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB7 8:40 B. Jackson rushed up the middle for 3 yard gain
[drive ended with an NU punt]

Nebraska - 3:26
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB20 3:26 B. Jackson rushed up the middle for 2 yard gain
[drive ended with an NU punt]

Nebraska - 0:32
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB12 0:32 C. Glenn rushed to the left for 7 yard gain

4th Quarter
[drive ended with an NU punt]

Nebraska - 11:12
[drive started with a run]
1st-10, NEB37 11:12 B. Jackson rushed to the left for 3 yard loss
[drive ended with an NU punt]

Nebraska - 6:46
[drive started with a run, but here the playcalling showed a will to score]
1st-10, NEB22 6:46 C. Glenn rushed up the middle for 28 yard gain
[drive ended in a touchdown]

Those kinds of stats point to serious flaws in coaching strategy and playcalling which have to be corrected for Nebraska to be competitive against top-echelon football teams. Such errors will be pardoned (barely) against marginally weaker opponents such as Kansas and Iowa State, but will be a certain cause of lost football games when playing the likes of Texas, USC or Oklahoma, and, this year, will also result in lost games to Missouri and Texas A&M if not timely corrected. The defense is not that good that it can counterbalance poor offensive playcalling all the time.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Better Football Coaching : Learning from the Best : More on Larry Kehres of the Purple Raiders of Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio

When we see the many coaching lapses apparent for teams in NCAA Division IA, we look instructively to Mount Union in NCAA Division III.

We have previously touted Larry (known to most simply as "LK") Kehres of the Purple Raiders of Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio as the best coach in college football.

We are not the only ones to point to the Purple Raiders as exemplary. Al Eisele in his blog at the Huffington Post, writes under the title Bush: Take a Lesson from the Mount Union College Purple Raiders:

"Kehres is one of the most successful football coaches in the country.

What's the secret to his success....

[Learning is the Measure of Teaching - No Excuses]

"I always try to get the assistant coaches who work with me to understand that if there's no learning by the kids, there's no teaching," said the 56-year-old Kehres, whose 29-year-old son Vince is one of the assistant coaches. "I've tried hard to get the coaches to accept that as the only measure of performance, and there are just no excuses accepted. If there's no learning, there's no teaching.....

[Give Credit Where Credit is Due]

If you've practiced well and prepared well and you still lose, then you have to give credit to your opponent. You have to respect the game of football and the other team.""

The d3football.com site has an article which gives us more positive feedback in the same direction.
It's title?
Learning from the best (by Mark Simon)

Here are some of the things written and said about Kehres in that article by Simon:

[Motivation of Players]

"Players often say that they will run through brick walls for their coach. That's a respect that has to be earned. As Sirianni enters his first season with total control of a program, he knows what the key is....

[Getting Teams to Reach their Full Potential]

"He gets his teams to reach their full potential every year," said [Mike] Sirianni [now himself an extremely successful head coach at Washington & Jefferson College], who was a two-time All-OAC [Ohio Athletic Conference] wide receiver as a Purple Raider and won a national title in 1993. "That's one of the hardest things to do as a coach. Rowan had more talent than Mount Union every year we played them (in the Stagg Bowl) 1993, 1996, and 1998, but we won those games. Rowan had more talent, but Mount Union had the better plan. If we didn't reach our full potential in those games, we wouldn't have won them...."

[Staying Calm and Cool]

"Kehres isn't big on motivational speeches. A typical pregame talk may end something like this.

"Let's go out there at see what happens and we'll make adjustments at halftime."

"Coach Kehres gets better as the game gets tighter," Sirianni said. "When the game starts, he's calm. When it's 28-28 in the Stagg Bowl, he's calm."

[Being Innovative]

"Kehres isn't afraid to try things that may go against ordinary thinking."

[Right Treatment of Alumni and Players]

""Anybody who has been around Coach Kehres picks off certain things," said [Dean] Paul, who was there when Kehres took over the program in 1986 and though he didn’t win a national championship, was a two-time all OAC [Ohio Athletic Conference] running back and team captain. "Like the way he treats alumni.""

[Paul is coach at Thomas More College, where improvement is visible due to his coaching: "Week four of PAC football was highlighted by a pair of fantastic finishes. In league play, Thiel (2-2, 1-0 PAC) opened defense of its 2005 PAC title with a thrilling 17-14 overtime win at Thomas More (2-1, 0-1 PAC). "]

“I look at his stuff now and I'm not afraid to steal it,” Sirianni said with a laugh. “We stole (MU grads) Gary Smeck and Matt Laverde to be part of our coaching staff. We changed our preseason conditioning testing to what they do at Mount Union. We're going to recruit like them too. One of the big things I want to copy is how they treat their young kids. We're going to have an eight- or nine-game JV schedule. That’s a big part of their program. Coach Kehres coaches the second team harder than his first team. You never know when the second team is going to have to start. We hadn't done that in the past, but we will this year. Our second team kids will be worked hard.”

[Being Fair and Impartial]

Erik Raeburn, successful football coach at Coe College, and son of Larry Kehres' sister, is quoted as saying:

"I think (being related) gives me an even bigger advantage. I'm very close with him personally and professionally. I think he treated me just like all his other players."


Also of interest are these articles about Larry Kehres and the Mount Union Purple Raiders:

At FindArticles.com:
At the top of the mountain is Division III Mount Union, College Football Insider, Column from The Sporting News, January 5, 1998, by Tom Dienhart and Mike Huguenin, where we read:

[Long-Term Planning - Small can be Big]

"In the '70s or '80s, we wondered if it was really possible for a private college our size to compete nationally in a big-team sport," Mount Union coach Larry Kehres says. "Winning our first title in 1993 showed us we could do it. It also sends that message out to other small colleges, and to our town....

[Everyone has a Mentor]

Kehres ... credits former Mount Union teammate and current Carolina Panthers coach Dom Capers with helping him develop into a great coach...."

From the Portfolio at NYU:
COLLEGE FOOTBALL; The Division III Title Is Mount Union's Goal by Erik Boland, we take the following excerpts:

[Knowing the Game]

"He knows so much about the game,'' said running back Chuck Moore, who won the Gagliardi award this season, given to the top player in Division III. ''I love going to scouting reports on Mondays just to listen to him talk.''

[Practices are For Learning - That's Pressure]

"Rob Adamson, a junior quarterback, said Kehres's practices are one of the reasons his teams are so successful. The pressure of game day, even a national semifinal, pales compared with the pressure of practice...."

[Professionalism]

''I take the same approach during games he does,'' Grinch, the senior safety, said. ''I see how businesslike he is. That rubs off on the rest of the team...."

[Look Forward, Not Back]

''You can't let the past influence each day, except to learn from it,'' [Kehres] said."

We have coached and we agree. Kehres has it right.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Cornhuskers Plagued by Weak Coaching : Huskers Blow 17-Point Lead But Luckily Win in Overtime

For this armchair quarterback, and himself a successful coach in coaching a youth German soccer team, the Nebraska Cornhusker 39-32 overtime win over Kansas definitely points to errors in strategy and playcalling being made by the Husker coaching staff.

The Huskers, in spite of leads of 17-0 in the first quarter and 24-7 in the second quarter, suddenly found themselves trailing 25-24 in the 4th quarter after a disastrous 3rd quarter, much like the disastrous 3rd quarter experienced against USC.

How could that happen? Did the playing get worse in the interim or was or the coaching and play-calling the culprit?

Callahan, on the topic of "losing momentum", at Huskers.com, explains the Husker collapse in the 3rd quarter as follows from his point of view:

"I think we took ourselves out of rhythm in the second half. I felt that we had some turnovers that allowed Kansas to get right back in it. We turned the ball over on the short-field conversion, and then we turned the ball over at midfield. I think it was a 10-point swing right there in that third quarter. I really felt that that hurt us when we were trying to control the clock and the time by running the ball. We were making some huge runs, but consequently, they were efficient and executed some timely turnovers against our backs. It became a dogfight. You'll get into those types of situations in conference competition. That's the nature of the North Division."

Andrè Kostolany, a recently deceased (1999) world-famed stock market expert and speculator wrote that there was one big difference between average investors and real talents among the speculators, and this is surely also one difference between average coaches (Callahan, unless he improves) and great coaches (Devaney, Osborne) .

That difference is that an average investor makes two major mistakes:

1) on the one hand - he sticks with bad stocks too long if things are going badly (in the usually errant belief that things will improve), refusing to accept initial poor judgment and accepting inevitable losses; and

2) on the other hand - the average investor sells good investments too early to claim a small profit, out of fear that what is going well will stop going well in the future.

The successful professional investor and speculator by contrast, wrote Kostolany, is prepared to bite the bullet and quickly sell losing investments to minimize already incurred losses.

At the same time that same professional investor holds on to stocks which are winners much longer than the average investor will hold such investments, thus maximizing his ultimate winnings.

In the Cornhusker game against the Trojans of USC, Callahan committed failure Nr. 1 above, by continuously running the ball into a stonewall USC running defense which was yielding as good as no yardage. What Callahan should have done there is to increasingly have called for Taylor to throw the ball aggressively, where the NU offense was in fact making inroads on the USC defense. In other words, Callahan did not minimize his losses, sticking to his errant initial game plan, and thus losing a game which was potentially winnable.

The "loss of momentum" in the USC game was Callahan's fault, not anyone else's.

In the Nebraska game against the Jayhawks of Kansas, Callahan then committed failure Nr. 2 above, by not sticking to a throwing game which was working quite well, but shifting gears at halftime, where no such shifting of gears was by any means required based on the first half results. He , by his own admission, then went to a "ball control" "running game", thus throwing his own team off of their first half momentum, and nearly costing the Huskers the game win. Here again, fearing to lose, and playing to merely hold on to what he had, rather than playing TO WIN, a running strategy was selected for the second half to try to maintain the lead against KU, rather than to try to INCREASE that lead.

We posted about this fear of losing by Callahan previously. The fear of losing is not a mark of champions. What makes Carroll such a great coach at USC, for example, is that his teams often win - and not lose games - in the 3rd and 4th quarters. That is mostly attributable to better coaching, not necessarily better playing.

Callahan's coaching style in the past has been marked by serious lapses in team performance in the second half - which we think is accounted for by fearful strategies and fearful weakness-induced playcalling after half-time.

In 2005, for example, NU trailed KU only 17-9 at the half, but was outscored 23-6 in the second half, for a loss of 40-15.

In 2005, for another example, NU and Missouri were tied 24-24 at half, only for NU to lose 41-24 after being outscored 17-0 in the second half. Those kinds of changes from one half to the next are not caused by poorer play by the players but by poor half-time preparation and weak coaching and playcalling in the second half.

In 2005, against Pitt, NU led 7-0 at the half, but did not score again and was lucky to win 7-6.

In 2005, against KSU, NU led 17-12 at the half, but was outscored 13-10 in the second half, to eke out a very lucky last-second 27-25 win.

Also in the Alamo Bowl in 2005, NU fell behind 28-17 after being tied 14-14 at the half and the subsequent Nebraska win was nothing short of a miracle, due in fact to equally poor coaching on the Michigan side. Note in that game that NU was again throwing too little and running too much.

There are simply too many instances of Husker teams under Callahan playing unwarrantedly conservative and fearful football in the second half - and losing - when they should have been powering forward aggressively with their West Coast offense and filling the air with footballs, not just short-distance throws but also longer passes. When the passes start to click, the running game will open against some teams. Other teams may just have too strong a running defense, as appeared to be the case for USC.

We hope, with time, that the NU coaching staff will reconsider their faulty strategies, especially in the second half. By fearing to lose, you are going to lose, because you are preparing to lose. To win, you have to prepare to win, and you have to coach and playcall like a winner. Otherwise, the other team will smell your fear, and be given new motivation to win themselves, thinking you have a reason to be fearful.

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