FanPost

Qualitative look at "Last Drive Defensive Failure"

There we were with the need to shut down UVA one more time to win the game after dominating them all game; instead they drove the field on us and scored and won. Ouch. Then, last night, when both Texas and Tx A&M failed to stop Last Drives I got to thinking. Anyone remember UF going 70 something yards in Gainesville to upset Thad Busby and Company (?, we were ranked number 2 in the nation, I think?) to beat us in Spurrier's infamous black arts quarterback platoon game? I'm thinking now that there are several reasons why it is not wise to count on a defensive stop at the end to win in a one-score game.

I am not skilled enough at conditional;l probabilities and am not even sure the data exists to analyze it, but it seems to me that a successful scoring drive at the end by the team down one score is more likely than drives under other circumstances. I wonder what the probabilities might be. Spiffballing to encourage criticism and discussion, here is a list of what i think may support that notion.

1. Focus: It's the last drive. We lose if we are unsuccessful; let's really concentrate and make an extra effort. (Jimbo Fisher would probably just tell me I don't "know ball," but I believe energy and focus vary by situation a great deal in college football.

2. Four downs, not three. A team facing its probable last possession is not going to punt, not even on their side of the field. This not only yields 33% more opportunities to make the first down, it can effect play-calling positively because the 4th down try is a certainty and so a coach might call a run, for example, needing four yards (or so) if it seems promising knowing that if that notion didn't work he can go again on 4th and hopefully short.

3. 4th quarter realities on D. The defense has been at least somewhat successful (by our definition of this discussion) all game. They are in danger of being a little complacent and maybe even a little tired.  It will likely be difficult to match the desperate intensity of an offense coming out with one last shot to win.

4. Refs puckering at the end (probably excludes ACC) not wanting to decide the game.

Maybe no big deal here, but after realizing that successful last drives to win (both Texas and Tx A&M technically did that in last night'sTurkey Day game) seem to be much more common than I originally thought. If I were a coach, I would be less conservative in a one-score game in the 4th quarter unless we were absolutely destroying our opponent.  Anybody know any statistics on whether this might be an actual phenomenon? Are last offensive drives to win in one-score games more likely to be successful than others? I think so.

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