One of the hottest topics in Bobcat Land since last Saturday’s 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe (if my email inbox and Twitter mentions are to gauge anything) is Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione’s clock management (or lack of it) in the second half, particularly late in the fourth quarter.
After the Bobcats’ offense stalled out following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to senior wide receiver Andy Erickson and they had to punt, there were two minutes and 56 seconds left in regulation when ULM started its eventual game-winning drive. Texas State also had all three timeouts.
The Warhawks put together an ugly drive that was aided by a pass interference penalty to Bobcat junior cornerback Craig Mager and a defensive breakdown in man coverage that allowed ULM to gain 20 yards on a third-and-10. By the time the Warhakws got the ball in field-goal range after that 20-yard pass to Texas State’s 24-yard line, Franchione still hadn’t called a timeout.
ULM scored four plays later and left the Bobcats, who only scored one touchdown in the previous 59:42, with 18 seconds to tie the game.
“I didn’t think there was going to be a touchdown, so I would have used all three timeouts to ice the kicker,” Franchione said after the game. “If they didn’t convert the third down near the end, I would have used on right there when they’re backed up. I thought about letting them score (with 30 seconds left), so we’d have enough time to try to score, but I didn’t think that was going to be very smart. I thought we would hold them and it would come down to a field goal, so I was going to ice the kicker three straight times, like we did before the half.”
Franchione called a timeout prior to the Warhawks’ 47-yard attempt that was the last play of the second quarter and said Sunday that he was going to call another, but defensive coordinator Craig Naivar told him to pretend like he was going to — and stand next to the line judge — but hold back at the last second. ULM botched that attempt thanks to a poor hold.
Statistical improbability of actually physiologically distracting the kicker aside, is it legal to call consecutive timeouts? Actually, it is — just not in the NFL, where a team would be slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Late in Delaware’s 33-30 win over Albany last Saturday the Great Danes called back-to-back timeouts to try to gain the advantage and send the game to overtime, but it backfired when Sean Baner split the uprights from 42 yards.