Ok, I’m calmer now (somewhat, anyway).
And, thanks to The U and The Flagship (I swear, today was the first time I’ve ever in my life cheered for an opponent of Carolina’s to lose, and although I didn’t cheer for Carolina to win, it still felt dirty), Saturday in the Atlantic ends where it began: with State and Maryland each in control of its own destiny and Florida State needing some help.
State can still make it to Charlotte. That’s great, I’ll be there wearing bells and whistles cheering them on. But regardless of how the rest of November plays out, TOB — or as BJD referred to him, TGW (aka, The Gutless Wonder) — made the absolute wrong call with the game (and probably the Atlantic Division) on the line today. For those that missed it, trailing 14-13 with under four minutes to play, State faced a 4th-and-one at the Clemson 43, and instead of making what most of us agree wasn’t just the right call for that situation, but the ONLY call (including, it appeared, Wilson and most of his teammates), TOB opted to punt…for four net yards.
Sure, State was plenty awful today before that call — poor execution and far too many missed opportunities to put Clemson away — and there was plenty of blame to share for that loss, not to mention we got the ball back with another chance to win it and failed to convert. So, TOB’s inexcusable, braindead decision wasn’t the sole reason we lost. But his decision put us in a position where winning the game would be highly unlikely.
With the division on the line and the ACC’s best quarterback needing a single yard, TOB chose to punt rather than play for the win. Make no mistake, punting was the low-percentage gamble there, not going for it. Best case scenario: we back Clemson up inside their own 10, force a three-and-out while burning all three of our timeouts, and then get the ball back around midfield with no timeouts and an unreliable kicking game. It’s not even a situation where you can claim confidence in your defense forcing a punt and trading up for better field position. Nope, the most likely best case scenario is that we trade two valuable minutes and three timeouts for a net loss of 10-15 yards in field position. Right?
I feel safe saying that most of us would’ve been disappointed had we not made it on that fourth down, but at least we could stomach going down fighting. After all, that’s our style. We didn’t like it when Amato played not to lose and we most certainly aren’t happy when TOB does it. What’s the worst that happens, we turn it over on downs and Clemson runs out the clock and we lose the game? So what? We’ve done plenty of that in the past few years. At least give us a chance to win it, coach.
Maybe TOB regrets that decision. And while I don’t think it makes him a bad coach (because his overall record shows otherwise), I do think it’s wholly indicative that State football has peaked under his leadership. We may still play in Charlotte on December 4th, and maybe we’ll win the ACC title and play in the Orange Bowl, or lose and go to the Peach, but that doesn’t mean TOB is the right coach to continue leading us forward, not if we have aspirations of national prominence that we were promised a decade ago when we started writing checks to pay for the renovated Carter-Finley. I trust Debbie Yow to make the right decision about this after the season.
Why? Because TOB will always punt in that same situation rather than going for the win. It’s just his style. And we’ll never be happy about it.
Accepting that call now is even tougher, knowing we blew a golden opportunity to seperate ourselves from Maryland and effectively eliminate Florida state, who both lost today. But the real bitch of it is that somehow we’re still in this fight and so now we’ll all resume that same dreadful, weary hope that hangs like a curse in our lives.
It’s tough being a State fan.