Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Calling Off the Dogs

Posted by admin November - 4 - 2015 - Wednesday

We have had a rather prolific offense this season. A lot of that is attributed to an outstanding running back. He doesn’t need a lot of blocking and can turn a short gain into a long TD in the blink of an eye. Plus we’ve had good line play all year and we have several other backs who have played well. That’s the beauty of the Delaware Wing T! It’s a “4-back offense.” We’ve used all four successfully.

Which brings me to the point of this post. When is it time to “call off the dogs” versus when is it necessary to keep the 1st team on the field. We had a game two weeks ago where neither defense could stop the other’s offense! The final was 66-44! I never took our starting offense off the field because our opponent continued to stay within 2 touchdowns the whole second half. Other times, I knew the game was “in the bag” and we pulled our starters as early as the 3rd quarter. I’ve even started subbing in the second quarter if it was apparent that the game was already out of hand.

I know I’ve been accused (behind my back) of “running it up.” I have to take exception to that accusation. There have been times that our offense has scored in the 50- 70 points range; however, any td’s scored in the second half were earned by the backups— many of them are freshmen.

It is not my job to stop our offense. That’s in the hands of the opposing team. I am not going to tell my backups that they have to “let up” or even take a knee (unless it’s less than a minute left and we have the ball.) That goes against everything I know about competitive sports. These are kids who spend most of the practice week on the scout teams. On game night, they may get in on a kicking team. Their chances for playing time are pretty slim. They live for a blow out! I am not going to send them in the game and then tell them that they are not to do their best! If the opposing team’s defense can’t stop our second and third team players then… that’s their problem. We have a running clock in Virginia and once a team is up by 35 in the second half, the clock rolls. That limits the number of subs we can get in the game! There have been games that we stood on the sideline hoping that our backup defense could get a stop cuz we wanted to get our second team offense (or at least sub in a couple of offensive players) on the field. The running clock ticks away and before you know it, the game is over and those 2-3 offensive players did not get a chance to play. I hate that!

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve had some big halftime leads over the years. I tell the starters during halftime that they get one series in the 3rd quarter and that’s it… their night is over! So, the starting offense better score and/or the starting defense better get a stop. They watch the rest of the night. If our backup offense continues to put points on the board, so be it. That’s what we coach ’em up to do… execute.

Sportsmanship is important to me. It’s one of our program’s core values. We’re not to taunt opponents. We’re going to be respectful to the officials. We’re going to pull our starters in the second half when we have a comfortable lead and it’s obvious that our opponent is out-matched. When I see opposing coaches with 30- 40 point leads late in the game with their starters still playing— throwing the ball down the field and ignoring the fact that their subs continue to watch while my players get humiliated…. well, that bothers me a lot! and I’ve let a few opposing coaches know my feelings about it during the post-game hand shake.

Let your backups play when they get a chance! They’re going to be your likely starters the next year or two. Nothing beats game experience.

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