December 09, 2009
Judging from your e-mails and comments, not everyone was quite as quick as play-by-play man Brent Musburger to agree with the officials' decision Saturday to put a second back on the clock after it expired on an out-of-bounds pass by Texas' Colt McCoy in the Big 12 Championship game, setting up the field goal that sent the Longhorns to the BCS title game with perfect record intact:
That may have been the most fortunate second of McCoy's life, preserving four years of goodwill and a Heisman candidacy from a situation that could have relegated him to becoming college football's version of Chris Webber because the fifth-year senior didn't know how much time was left -- he said in the post-game interview he saw 15 seconds on the clock before the play, when it was ticking below seven at the snap -- and, he revealed Tuesday, he didn't know the rules for stopping the clock on an out-of-bounds heave:
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy didn't realize the football must hit something before the clock stops when he tossed away a pass at the end of Longhorns' 13-12 victory against Nebraska — a gaffe that nearly left his team with no time to kick the game-winning field goal.
McCoy says he thought the clock stop on a pass out of bounds as soon as it crossed the first down marker. Had he known the rule, he says, he wouldn't have floated a long and high pass over the bench area that didn't touch down until it appeared to hit a railing near the stands.
Whether McCoy should have known that rather obscure point of the rulebook, though, seems secondary to the more pressing question: With more than 20 seconds and a timeout left, and the ball already in field goal range, why did it come down to splitting hairs about where the ball was at the last second in the first place? If Texas wanted to run another play, it had two options: a) Call a timeout to get the play it wanted, and make sure that it would have been a play that stopped the clock by getting the ball out of bounds or past the first down sticks; or b) Hurry up to the line to run the play and still have time to use the timeout and kick the field goal afterward. If the 'Horns were playing for the field goal, they only had to let the clock tick down and call the timeout with enough time to bring the field goal team on.
Instead, UT let the clock tick, sat on the timeout and still tried to get off a play when there may or may not have been enough time left -- if the decision to restore the final second was correct, it wasn't by much, and certainly not by enough to chalk the result up to sound strategy when there was no good reason to walk that line. Whether or not McCoy knew any rule about when the clock stops is less significant than the fact the rule came into play when it didn't have to.
And it's still better to be lucky than have your head full of obscure clock rules, anyway.
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