Mario Cristobal is thankful. He’s got some company now this year when it comes to the dumbest coaching decisions during the 2023 college football season, as the worst defensive call in generations last Saturday had a huge impact on this year’s CFP race. We dive in with that and other decisions for our Week 13 Football IQ segment.
Bret Bielema burns timeout to argue with refs
When will college football coaches learn that timeouts are way to valuable to waste? Bret Bielema hasn’t. In the first half, as the Illinois Fighting Illini were locked in a tight battle against the Northwestern Wildcats, Bielema thought Northwestern should have been called for intentional grounding. He kept arguing with the official for a call that can’t be retroactively made.
Eventually, Bielema took a timeout, just so he could keep arguing with the official. Timeouts are extremely valuable, and if you don’t think it was a factor, Northwestern scored a touchdown at the end of the first half because they knew they had more leeway on offense given how Illinois was down on timeouts. That TD was huge, as Northwestern won 45-43.
Tom Allen settles for field goal…again
There’s a reason the Indiana Hoosiers fired Tom Allen on Sunday. Although he took the program to rare heights early, his historically conservative decisions proved costly in the end, and it happened again Saturday as he lost 35-31 to the Purdue Boilermakers. For the second time this season, Allen surrendered a touchdown at a critical time and took the field goal.
With the score tied at 28, Indiana drove to the Purdue 28-yard line with just under seven and a half minutes to go. Allen coached as if he could run the clock down to a game-winning field goal, and he ran it three straight times while running two minutes off the clock, so when he kicked the field goal, he took a 31-28 lead. Purdue then scored a game-winning touchdown to win 35-31.
Matt Rhule calls timeout on 4th and 4 to punt
For the second time in three weeks, Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Matt Rhule cost his team a game due to dumb coaching. This time, it was due to burning timeouts, which is the most common dumb decision college football coaches make, and it cost his team a shot at a bowl game his first year on the job. So once again, no postseason for Nebraska.
With the score tied at 10, 4th and 4 came up at the Iowa 42-yard line. In a defensive battle, I don’t mind punting the ball right there. However, I do mind using a timeout before deciding to punt the ball. That’s exactly what Rhule did. Then late in the game, down a timeout, Nebraska had to throw it with a chance for a game-winning field goal. That caused an interception and set up the Iowa game-winner.
Bill Napier calls trick play to stall momentum
Saturday could have really shaken up the College Football Playoff race if the Florida Gators had upset the Florida State Seminoles. Billy Napier had his team in position to do just that. Up 10-0 in the first half, Florida got a safety and then returned the kickoff to the FSU 46, so they had it 1st and 10 up 12-0 in FSU territory with five minutes to go in the first half.
That’s when Napier decided to get cute. He called a double-reverse flea flicker, a play that resulted in intentional grounding. That grounding play killed the drive and field position, and Florida punted, which set up an FSU touchdown before the half to cut it to 12-7 and put them back in it. Napier also burned two timeouts before a punt and a field goal, so he made a comedy of errors to cost Florida in their 24-15 loss.
Hugh Freeze rushes two
Another game that could have impact the College Football Playoff race due to poor coaching, the Auburn Tigers should have upset the Alabama Crimson Tide Saturday. They brought up a 4th and goal from the 30 with 33 seconds left up 24-20. At that point, Hugh Freeze and his staff decided to make the worst defensive call in history.
Auburn rushed two and had one player in spy. That’s transcendentally dumb. Either bring pressure, rush four or drop everybody back. Rushing three is bad enough. Wasting a defender in spy when you know Jalen Milroe isn’t going to run 30 yards for a touchdown is one of the worst moves you can make, so this one takes the cake.