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.
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