Les Koenning: You have to be perfect in crucial situations
After quickly climbing the polls and winning their first seven games of the season, Mississippi State has slipped in recent weeks against Alabama and Texas A&M, losing two straight.
After averaging 38 points per game during their seven game winning streak, the Bulldogs have managed just 10 points per game in their two losses. Offensive coordinator Les Koenning attributes their drop off in production to their execution early in games, and during key situations (especially in the red zone).
As he explains, being just a hair off in terms of execution is something you may be able to get away with against lesser teams, but not in the SEC.
"If you really look at it, it's just a matter of execution." Koenning said.
"When it comes down to big games, and playing in big games, you have to execute. Those things are very very small. The small things become big things, so you can't be just a hair off on your route or throwing the football, or your read, you have to be spot on. Those are the type of things that we're experiencing right now, we're getting in that situation where if we're just a little bit off it's not nearly as good as it would be against a Middle Tennessee, or someone like that."
"Execution gets magnified in those situations," Koenning noted about the need to execute against a top defense in a compressed section of the field, like the red zone. "You get down to a crucial situation and you've got to execute. Those are things that are hard to duplicate at practice because of the speed of the game."
This weekend their ability to execute will be tested once again, as they take on a 7-2 LSU squad. While LSU does rank in the top five nationally in pass efficiency defense, scoring defense, and total defense, they rank near the bottom nationally (112th) in opponents red zone conversions, allowing teams to come out of the red zone with points 90% of the time (including 15 touchdowns in 20 attempts).
Kickoff is scheduled for 7pm ET on ESPN.
Wednesday TV - More MACtion tonight
Another night of MACtion on tap tonight. If last night was any indication, this game will be fun to watch as well.
Eastern time listed.
Bowling Green at Ohio - 8 - ESPN2
Mark Richt needs off-season hip surgery
Coaches commonly tell their players to play hurt and fight through pain to help their team. Georgia head coach Mark Richt is leading his team by example as he fights through a hip injury that he has battled for two decades.
Richt reluctantly told reporters how he injured his hip: in a swing set demonstration gone wrong. Here, in his own words, is how it happened.
“I was trying to show (my wife) what a good swinger I was,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I was swinging really high on a big heavy swing set with those big heavy chains. Sometimes if you go super high, on the way back you get a little bit of that lag. You've got those big S-hooks on top, and you’re swinging, and I swung enough to where the one on the left came out. So it comes out, but I didn't know. I’m still on the swing. So when I come back down, the chain on [on the right] stayed taut and the other one just goes. I turned sideways and the first thing that hits the ground is my left hip. Just smashed it.
“It was traumatic. I mean, when I hit I was like, ‘I think I broke it.’ I couldn't hardly breathe. Sometimes with an injury like that you get a full-body sweat and a little nauseous. But the pain kind of went away and I went about my business, until about a year and a half ago.”
Richt re-injured the hip doing p90x. He fought through the pain until finally consulting his doctors, who told him he could have the hip replaced when the pain became too much.
The coach kept the injury quiet until athletics director Greg McGarity was told recently when he tried to schedule off-season meetings with Richt.
With the Bulldogs on the verge of winning their second straight SEC East title, expect Richt to coach through the pain for a little bit longer.
Read the full report here.
Tommy Tuberville explains how his staff calls plays
Texas Tech head coach pulled the curtain back a bit during his press conference this week. Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal provided a glimpse of how Tuberville and his staff run things during games.
“I don’t like anybody talking on the phones with the coordinator calling plays,” Tuberville said. “Worst thing you can do is have a head coach and assistants hollering in your ear. ... It’s got to be one guy, one thought, but the thoughts of other people come whether it’s timeout or (when) you’re off the field.
“Now, Neal will ask me, ‘Run or pass, coach?’” Tuberville said. “‘If this play doesn't work, if it’s third-and-5, do you want to run it, do you want to pass it?’ And I’ll give him my thought."
Like many head coaches, Tuberville oscillates between the offensive and defensive sides of the headset during games.
“But then he gets the last call," said Tuberville. "He knows a lot more about it than I do, because I’m over on the defensive side and a lot of times I’m not even watching (the offense). I’m listening to the defense and trying to help them.”
Brown was just 28 when Tuberville lured him from Troy to be the Red Raiders' offensive coordinator in 2010. The Texas Tech offense has come under fire of late, as the Red Raiders have been held to 24 points or under four times in Big 12 play this season. Texas Tech lost to Texas 31-22 on Saturday.
“It’s a lot harder when you’re there calling (plays) and you’ve got about 30, 40 seconds to make that decision,” Tuberville said. “That’s the reason we go freeze a lot of times. You’ll see us line up, we’ll get down and we’re all looking at the formation, and we’ll have one guy in the press box giving Neal the front and one the coverage: ‘Neal, they’re going to be in zero coverage, they’re going to bring five’, and then he’ll call a play.”
Tuberville stated that running backs coach Chad Scott and offensive line coach Chris Tomsen give their recommendation on running plays, and inside receivers coach Sonny Cumbie and outside receivers coach Tommy Mainord will do the same for pass plays.
The most-question decision made by Tuberville on Saturday came at the 1:35 mark of the third quarter. The Red Raiders had just scored a touchdown to pull within 24-22 and opted to go for two, which was ultimately unsuccessful. Though Tuberville bore the brunt of the criticism, it was a decision made by the staff ahead of time.
“You don’t go for two just spur of the moment,” he said, adding that the defense was playing well at that stage of the game. “We also thought, ‘Hey, we need to let these players know we’re trying to win the game.’ We’re trying to get back into it, so if we can score one touchdown and get that two-point play, then it would be huge momentum.”
Win or lose, it was a team decision.
The Scoop on Toledo vs. Ball State
There may be a presidential election going on today, but the eyes of the nation will clearly be in Toledo, Ohio, for Toledo's clash with Ball State.
Things are going well right now for Toledo. The Rockets just entered the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2001 and are tied atop the MAC West with Northern Illinois. Ball State has also enjoyed a successful season, riding a three-game winning streak and at 6-3 the Cardinals hope to make their first bowl trip since 2008. Pete Lembo's team also won six games last year but did not play in a bowl game, so a win tonight will go a long way toward Ball State's postseason plans.
There are many similarities between Toledo and Ball State. First, both programs are led by young head coaches. Matt Campbell and Pete Lembo were both used as examples in FootballScoop's study of the success of young head coaches.
Next, both of these squads have played their final Saturday game in the regular season. Each team's next game is on next Wednesday as Toledo will visit Northern Illinois and Ball State hosts Ohio. The Cardinals close the regular season on Friday, Nov. 23, at Miami (Ohio), and Toledo completes its regular season slate on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at home versus Akron. Such is life inside the national phenomenons known as MACtion.
Both teams choose to win with their offense. Each squad ranks in the top third of FBS teams in rushing offense, total offense and scoring offense. They also are among the bottom 15 FBS teams in total defense, but Toledo has managed to be a touchdown per game better than Ball State in scoring defense. The Cardinals allow 33.3 points per game, while the Rockets surrender 26.7 points per game.
Each team has been particularly vulnerable through the air (Toledo is 110th in pass defense, Ball State is 98th) but the Rockets' defense has a better touchdown-to-interception ratio, with 18 touchdowns against 12 interceptions, than Ball State's 22-to-6 ratio.
The biggest difference between these two teams is turnover margin. Based on their average margins, Toledo should win this match-up by at least one takeaway. Ball State failed to win the turnover battle in each of its previous three losses.
Like the presidential election, tonight's game should be close. Outside of the loss to Clemson, every one of Ball State's game has been decided by 12 points or less. Toledo's last two games have also been decided by a total of 11 points.
Let the MACtion commence.
Brent Venables discusses what it takes to build a consistent winner
First year Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables was asked by reporters earlier today about the similarity between the college communities of Clemson and Oklahoma (where he coached last season), and how each of them have managed to have sustained success despite relatively small population bases and sharing the state with other BCS caliber schools.
After noting continued success relies a lot on stability within the administration, and continuity within the coaching staff, Venables goes on to explain a few other areas he sees as key to building a consistent winner in a campus community similar to his last two coaching stops.
"You have to be able to recruit at a high level. Let's face it, players help make everything easy." Venables said, adding that recruiting coupled with stability within the staff and administration is the foundation that everything else is built upon.
"Consistency within your approach is also important. Obviously, you have to be thorough and detailed in how you run a program."
"Having a foundation of recruiting tough, disciplined players, and they don't have to be real flashy. That's kind of contrary to popular belief anymore in this day and age of 'Let's see what new play this team comes up with this week' or, 'What cool pretty uniform will this team show up in?'"
"That's not how you win. Now, kids like that so you can recruit some kids, but if that's what they're making decision off from, then that's not the kind of guy that I want to coach anyway. I'm in it, so I get it, but I want some guys that have a little more substance to themselves. But that's just me." Venables explains.
"Again, Bill Snyder is the model of consistency as a coach and his approach. He doesn't change. He is faceless day in and day out in his approach to young people and I think there's a comfort in that, in a very systematic approach. When you start deviating, being here and there and everywhere else, I think that when they start to see through you and gets everyone out of their comfort zone."
"There are a lot of variables that go into it, but I think having a foundation of those things are critical."
After weighing in on program building, Venables provides some quality insight on the importance of the four hour radius surrounding the Clemson campus and why that radius weighed heavily into his decision to take a position on Dabo Swinney's staff.
The situation at Cal
Jon Wilner, the respected writer from the San Jose Mercury-News, recently detailed the situation facing Cal head coach Jeff Tedford and the future of Cal athletics. In his 12th year as Cal's head coach, Tedford is 82-55, but a 21-13 loss to Washington on Friday dropped the Golden Bears to 3-7 this season, clinching an early hibernation for the Bears for the second time in three years.
If a decision is indeed made to make a coaching change, Wilner thinks it would start with athletics director Sandy Barbour. Any change would likely start with her and run through UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. It is unclear exactly how the dynamics of their relationship works and how a final call would be made, but any movement likely begins and ends with those two.
The economics of the situation are complicated like seemingly everything else in that state, Cal athletics is facing budget issues. To make a coaching change, unless Tedford was willing to accept a negotiated buyout, Cal would owe Tedford $6.9 million - the full salary of the remaining three years on his contract. That's just the start, considering the cost to run a search, hire a new coaching staff while also turning over the existing staff.
There is also another dollar figure to consider - $321 million. That's the price Cal paid to renovate Memorial Stadium. To finance the renovation, Cal is asking for 50-year seat license fees. Cal must put fans in seats to make its economics work and, if you watched the Golden Bears' game with Washington on Friday night, you saw that this will be a big hill to climb if things don't improve on the field. Any cost associated with changing the coaching staff must be weighed against the cost of tickets gone unsold.
As Wilner points out, it is possible that Barbour's voice in the process may be minimized due to the contract she approved for Tedford. Wilner wrote a detailed breakdown of Cal's economic conundrum in October. She also could be replacing the person that she referred to in late August as "an icon". Add all three factors together and it's not out of the question that Chancellor Birgeneau takes the decision-making process in another direction.
The Tedford era began very strongly in Berkeley. He earned Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors in his debut season of 2002 and again in 2004. Tedford led the Golden Bears to 10-win season in 2004, when they famously pushed eventual national champion USC to the brink of an upset, and in 2006, when they shared the Pac-10 title and won the Holiday Bowl. Tedford's tenure peaked in October of the 2007 season, when a 5-0 start rocketed Cal to the No. 2 ranking in both major polls. However, the Bears went 2-6 to finish that season and are 34-35 since earning the No. 2 ranking.
Another factor not weighing in Tedford's favor is Cal's performance in the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate. According to the figures Wilner provided, Cal's 2002-05 entering classes finished with a 48 percent success rate, the lowest figure in the Pac-12.
The NFL / NCAA Coaches Academy
The NCAA reached out to us today asking for our help in alerting as many coaches as possible about the upcoming NFL/NCAA Coaches Academy.
The Academy is February 17 - 19 in Charlotte, N.C. The deadline to apply is Monday, November 26. Click here to view the application.
A total of 60 coaches and current/former NFL players will be chosen to attend the Academy, which is designed to provide attendees with the opportunity to gain knowledge and insight into the world of coaching.
For additional information on the NFL/NCAA Coaches Academy, please click here.