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HomeSportsUT
Published: Tuesday, 10/12/2004

Routs tough on either side

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

In just six short weeks, Tom Amstutz has spent time on both ends of the college football scoreboard.

The University of Toledo has played in six games this season, and five of them have been absolute routs. Amstutz has been the router, and he's been the routee.

Odd as it may seem, coaching the winning team in those one-sided affairs might present a tougher quandary than what the guy on the short end of the stick faces.

They just don't teach "How Not to Score" in coaching school.

When UT lost at Minnesota by a 63-21 score to open the season, and then at Kansas the next week 64-14, Amstutz found himself throwing everything in the bag of tricks at the opposition to try and score some points, and stop the bleeding. It was all-out coaching.

But the last three weeks, the roles have reversed as the Rockets have overwhelmed Temple, Ball State, and Western Michigan. In all three games, the biggest challenge Amstutz faced, once the outcome was no longer in doubt, was how to keep from piling on.

The victory was in hand long before the final gun sounded in those games, so keeping the score from getting silly was a big concern.

"This season, we've been on both ends of that situation," Amstutz said. "We had to watch another team put up a bunch of points on us, and we've had the opportunity to score a lot of points.

"I think that as a coach, you want to be a gentleman and stay humble, and understand the situation the other team is in. They have young men that are working hard, just like yours, and I think it is important to consider that and be a gentleman and a sportsman."

The Rockets, who will host Ohio at noon on Saturday, have scored 50-plus points in two straight games, and probably could have had more.

Football has no mercy rule, but an unwritten one carved into the code of the profession is that you don't run up the score.

Amstutz said the overwhelming majority of coaches don't want to see that happen, and do whatever is in their control to keep from dumping salt in open wounds.

''I think what you have to remember is that football is a game and every dog has its day," Amstutz said. "When the score gets high, you want to keep the clock going. We put in a lot of our second-team players who have been working hard as backups, and it gives them an opportunity to go out there and play football. You finally get a chance to play more than just your starters in that type of game."

Calling off the dogs can be even tougher on the road, where a coach has just 60 players at his disposal. From the first day of practice, there is a relentless push to get players to go all out, so expecting the subs to throttle back when they finally get their chance is tough.

In a 70-point outing against Temple earlier this season, Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon did everything but have his quarterback take a knee in an effort to stay out of the end zone.

The Falcons did not throw a pass for the entire fourth quarter, and at one point called the same running play up the middle 15 times in a row.

"It's a tough spot, and I've been on the wrong end of that a few times too," Brandon said. "The Temple game was close to getting out of hand, and that was with all of the second and third-teamers in the game.

Obviously, those kids are getting their chance to play, and they want to perform and impress you. You can't tell them not to play hard, so you're kind of in a Catch-22."

Brandon, whose team will host Ball State at 4 p.m. Saturday, said that when coaches make an obvious effort to hold down the score, and it still keeps pushing upward, the other side understands.

"But it is an awkward situation," he said. "It's tough, and I've experienced both sides of that in my years in this business. If we're way up, I've got some empathy for the other guy, so you just try and handle it the best way you can, with respect and dignity, and think about it.

Because what goes around, comes around, in this business, I know that."

Amstutz said the biggest plus in those lopsided games is that it allows the head coach to get a long look at everyone in uniform.

"This past weekend, we played every player we had, including our down-the-line guys," he said. "You have 60 guys you take on the road, and we were very fortunate that all 60 of our players got to participate in the game, and most of them got to play at least a whole quarter.

That's one of those things that's good for your football team and your program when you have a chance to play everyone, and we got that opportunity."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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