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Published: Monday, 9/17/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Clawson's decision still hard to figure

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
University of Toledo coach Matt Campbell, left, and Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson meet after the Rockets beat the Falcons 27-15 in the Battle of I-75 on Saturday at the Glass Bowl in Toledo. University of Toledo coach Matt Campbell, left, and Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson meet after the Rockets beat the Falcons 27-15 in the Battle of I-75 on Saturday at the Glass Bowl in Toledo.
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Warming up some back-burner leftovers from Saturday night's 27-15 Toledo victory over Bowling Green:

Watching and listening to BG coach Dave Clawson's postgame press conference was vaguely reminiscent, albeit far less confrontational, of ex-UT coach Tim Beckman's follow-up to his decision not to use timeouts late in last season's loss to Northern Illinois.

Both did their best to explain the wisdom of their respective strategies when everyone in the room knew they were probably wrong.

RELATED ARTICLE: Falcons' pass defense again exploited in loss

On Saturday, Clawson opted to go for a two-point conversion after a touchdown with 13½ minutes to play pulled the Falcons to within 24-15. A conversion kick makes it 24-16 and a one-possession game. Failure to convert either way leaves BG down by nine points and forced to score twice to take the lead.

The try for two was sniffed out by Toledo's defense inches short of the goal line, and the score remained 24-15.

I think — the emphasis on maybe — I understand Clawson's thought process. He was down on his team's kicking game and suggested the Falcons might have gone for two after every subsequent score from that point.

"I know conventional wisdom is that you kick the extra point and make it a one-score game," he said. "But you're still going to have to go for two … I chose to go for it [there] so that way I would know if it was a one-score or a two-score game."

The problem is that his players would know it too, and there is a delicate psychology at play. The Falcons had trailed 17-0 at one point, had rallied, were playing better on both sides of the ball, were poised to be back in the game, and would have been excited to be in a one-score situation to tie it. Instead, the air of momentum seeped from the balloon.

Conventional wisdom is that you don't lose a game with 13½ minutes to play. You give your players something to shoot for and either win or lose or send it to overtime later if and when the opportunity presents itself.

Because BG's kicker missed the previous extra point didn't mean he'd miss this one. The odds overwhelmingly indicate otherwise. Clawson, as cerebral a coach as you'll come across, out-thought himself this time.

■ Speaking of psychology, I know a high school coach whose first offensive drill on the first day of practice is the victory formation.

The Rockets have a high-octane offense that has accounted for 1,314 yards in three games. But they apparently haven't spent 10 seconds practicing the most satisfying play in the game.

Saturday's outcome was effectively decided with 2:00 left when UT picked up a first down on the play after BG used its final timeout. What happened after that was four rushes by the Rockets — four chances for fumbles and/or injury — a holding penalty and, believe it or not, a timeout by Toledo. That's not how you run out the clock.

■ UT coach Matt Campbell has insisted, some statistical evidence to the contrary, his defense has performed well this season. That certainly was the case for the most part Saturday night.

Cheatham Norrils, the sophomore safety from St. John's Jesuit, had a breakout game with seven tackles and a perfectly timed interception where he was like a second skin on BG's receiver. Trent Voss, a redshirt freshman linebacker, and senior end Hank Keighley had huge second-half sacks.

And if senior linebacker Dan Molls (13 tackles), like BG's Dwayne Woods (10 tackles, two for losses), isn't first team All-MAC, then something is wrong.

■ Finally, kudos to the Glass Bowl throng of 28,115 on a gorgeous evening, which snapped a skid of seven straight less-than-capacity crowds for the Battle of I-75.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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