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Ralph, the Riverboat Gambler

Okay, let’s talk a little about the fourth-down call. Personally, I was very surprised – but not quite stunned – that Coach Ralph Friedgen decided to go for it – ahead by three – on fourth and inches from his own 29 with 6:02 remaining. But I was not as surprised as one reporter in the press box, a reporter who does not come to every game. He kind of flipped out after Maryland snapped the ball, and that’s not an overstatement. I’ll leave it at that.

I was surprised mostly because the risk seemed to outweigh the reward. The game was not close to being over even if you make the first down. You still need to move the ball and milk the clock.

But if you don’t make it, you bail out a Clemson team that had not moved the ball the entire half. If you don’t make it, Clemson does not have to rely on a true freshman quarterback to lead it down the field and could instead turn to a solid place kicker to tie the game because the Tigers would already be in field goal position. Worst-case scenario, C.J. Spiller or Jacoby Ford gets in space and the Tigers take the lead.

I understand that Maryland’s defense was tiring, and Don Brown and Friedgen had a better idea about that than anyone else in the stadium. And I understand that if you punt it, you risk a big return. But I cannot recall another call like that, certainly not one that I have witnessed in person.

Whatever way you want to view it, however, it was a Les Miles-esque gusty call, a decision that very well could have backfired on Friedgen. And if it had, he would have been answering lots of questions this week about the direction of the program this week. But as Friedgen said, the players made it the right call. And I think that is true. I think players like the fact their coach believed in the offense like that, even though it didn’t work. With a work-in-progress offensive line, this offense needs all the confidence it can get.

It is a fascinating decision to analyze.

Ralph, the riverboat gambler.

By Eric Prisbell  |  October 5, 2009; 10:56 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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Had the Terps made the first down, Coach Friedgen and Co. would be hailed as prescient heroes. As the season progresses we can hope that Coach will succeed in making more unexpected, high reward calls. He didn't get to where he is today by betting against his teams. 'He who dares wins'.

Posted by: AncientTerp | October 5, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

That was one of the worst calls he has ever made. Almost as bad as the fake screen pass that resulted in a sack. The screen didn't work all day so no one was fooled. I give Fridge a pass for this year but we need to see improvement next year. It's not good when the best player on the field is the punter and that's not even his real position. He deserves 4 game balls for his effort. He was outstanding.

Posted by: kenw1 | October 5, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

It was a gutsy call, although I would have chosen suicidal, especially if the Terps lost. If you think the haters on this blog were calling for his head on a silver platter before, imagine what it would have been like if they did lose. Instead, we're 1-0 in conference play, better than Clemson and FSU, so we're back on track.

Posted by: ecglotfelty | October 5, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Can readers please comment on the performance of Anthony Wiseman?
I have been watching this guy the past 2-3 seasons, and I think he is terrible. Aside from his fumbled punt, his coverage skills are weak, when he tackles he tries to make a big hit but doesn't wrap the player up with his arms. If he makes a good play, he always gloats and makes a big deal about it until he gets burned on the next play.
I am sick of that guy and have never understood what the coaches see in him.
Am I the only person that can't stand to watch this guy play and thinks that he is and has been the weak link on the defensive side of the ball?

Posted by: ntopf1616 | October 5, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Look, it was the worst call I've seen in my lifetime. Security had to come over and give me a warning bc I just lost it when I saw Turner go back out on the field. But Fridge did made amends by calling those timeouts that iced their kicker not once but twice.

Posted by: Barno1 | October 5, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Barno, I think you are being generous saying Coach Friedgen "made amends" because he used time outs to "ice" the kicker. That is not exactly brilliant coaching since every coach from Pop Warner leagues through high school, college, and the NFL use that tactic. I'm sure you recall Coach Friedgen called back to back time outs at the end of the MidTennSt game to no avail since the kicker made that field goal. Did the time outs play a role? Probably, but I think an equal factor was the length of the kicks. The time outs do not earn him a pass on that bad decision to go for a 1st down.

Posted by: erniegogo | October 5, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

The time outs may not have been brilliant, but they certainly did make a difference. For the first TO, the first kick was good, even though it looked like the kicker slipped (maybe that's why). On the second TO, Clemson lined up funny; maybe they were going to fake it. Both well spent.

Posted by: skd2 | October 5, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

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