Badger Should Have Gone for 2
There are many criticisms that are being rained down on Bret Bielema and the Badgers after last night's loss to Michigan State.
The time management issue is a big one and a lot of people will talk about it, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it. I'll address the time management at the end of the blog post.
Bret Bielema's post-game excuse for calling the timeouts during Michigan State's final drive was that he was playing to win the game. But doesn't playing to win the game mean taking the lead with 1:26 left in the game?
I think the Badgers should have gone for 2.
Don't get me wrong, I know its risky.
But you have Montee Ball, who MSU had proven incapable of stopping all game. He had 18 rushes for 115 yards. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry in the game.
Don't you have to trust that Ball can get in the endzone from the three-yard line?
Especially if you're going to stick with "I was playing to win the game" as your party line post-game?
In the midst of the game last night we talked about the two-point converstion and I said I wasn't in favor of it. So clearly this is a hind-sight sort of analysis, but I still think it might be the right call.
But the biggest decision-maker here for me is Bielema's quote. Maybe I can't take it at face value. Maybe he was just saying that to cover his own behind beacuse he knew he'd take crap for the time out calls. But we can't assume that. So I'm going to have to take it at face value and assume that Bielema really did want to do everything that would give his team the best chance of winning.
To me, that means going for the win, not the tie.
You don't have full control over what happens in overtime, especially with the officiating that had happened throughout the game. If you don't win the toss. If you don't get a penalty. There are a lot of IFS that exist when you play for the regulation tie and try to win in overtime.
If, at :30 you thought you could win the game, that has to mean that with 1:26 left you thought you would be able to win the game in that time. Meaning that if you missed the conversion, you would still have a shot to come back down and hit a field goal to win.
Statistically, you have a 49.5% chance of winning in overtime. Two-point conversions are said to have a 44% chance of success. Is that 4.5% difference reason enough not to go for the two-point?
And aren't your odds increased by the talent you have on the field?
Coaches don't go for the win here because if they lose, they get all the blame. But they also get all the glory. You have to have the balls to do it.
But on to clock management:
Bielema took time outs when Michigan State had the ball in the final 1:26 of the game. He took one at :42 seconds left and one at :30 seconds left. If he doesn't take either of those timeouts, time runs out on Michigan State and they don't have a chance to run the final Hail Mary play.
But that, to me, wasn't even the worst time management. The Badgers got the ball with 1:20 seconds left and chose to sit on it. They took a sack on the first play, so it was 2nd and 20. They rushed for 3 yards, making it 3rd and 17. They threw for 12 yards, making it 4th and 5. The ensuing punt was blocked and Michigan State scored a touchdown.
Maybe the blocked punt happens no matter what, but I hated that the Badgers were content to sit on that 1:20 and didn't take a shot downfield. 2nd and 20 and you rush for 3 yards? I know this is a rush-first team and I guess there was always a chance that it could break for a big gain. But on the next play, you throw a pass well short of the first down marker. The Badgers were willing to head into the locker room down by 2 and it cost them another 7 points.
It bothers me more because Bielema took those 2 timeouts at the end of the second half trying to be aggressive and get the ball back to end the game. Where was the aggressiveness to end the first half? You've got a Heisman candidate behind center and brilliant receivers and you don't trust them to let one loose downfield to end the half? If you're willing to go for it all with :30 in the 2nd half, why not with 1:20 in the 2nd half?