Tony DeMeo

Clock Control is Always Important

The buzz word in football is “Tempo”. Announcers speak about it as though it was the magic path to success. They love teams that play a high tempo, fast paced offense. I hear coaches say how they want to turnaround a team by going high tempo. That’s like going to a Baskin Robins to lose weight.
The underdog must run fewer plays & make your opponent run fewer plays thus shortening the game to have a better chance of winning. David didn’t fight Goliath in a 2 out of 3 contest. That battle was one and done.

If you have the superior team then high tempo is the answer. The more snaps the better. The difference between luck & skill is duration.

So high tempo isn’t good or bad. It’s a tool for you to use to increase your chances to win. Sun Tzu in his book The Art of War wrote about the importance of knowing your enemy but even more important; know yourself. Earlier in the 2014 season Oklahoma tried to out-high tempo Baylor even though the Sooners had been struggling on offense and the Bears were operating on all cylinders on offense. The Sooners hung in for a while then the Bears pulled away to win 48 – 14. The Sooners should have slowed the game & protected their defense from the Baylor attack. When things start to unravel or you’ve underestimated your opponent – “Stop the Bleeding” – slow the game and give your defense a chance to regroup. Don’t put out a fire with propane.

The clock is also critical in finishing the game. Know how to end the game to secure victory. Everyone talks about four minute offense or kill the clock offense but it must be executed. Taking a knee was my favorite play. Every coach should have a chart that shows when to take a knee. If your opponent has no time outs left, you can take a knee with 2 minutes & 30 seconds left. If your opponent has a time out – then you can start taking a knee with 1 minute & 45 seconds left. Just deduct 40 seconds for every timeout. So with all 3 time outs, you can take a knee with only 15 seconds left.

Seems pretty simple doesn’t it? But during the 2014 season Notre Dame was ahead of Northwestern by 3 points with 1 minute & 28 seconds left in their game. Northwestern had only one timeout left. So The Irish were clearly in take a knee mode. The Wildcats could only stop the clock once so if ND used only one second on their 2nd down play, the Cats could not stop the clock again. On 3rd Down the Irish take a knee & use up 40 seconds which leave 42 seconds left – one more knee & the game is over. Instead ND handed the ball off to their most dependable ball carrier who fumbled! Northwestern recovered! The Cats kicked a field goal and tied the game. Northwestern won the game in overtime! Notre Dame seized defeat from the jaws of victory.

Alabama beat #1 Mississippi St. 25 – 20. The Tide was up 25 – 13 with time running out on the Bulldogs. As the Bulldogs were driving at the end of the game Dan Mullen seemed to forget that he needed two touchdowns to win. So he needed a touchdown and recover an onside kick then score again. The Bulldogs scored one touchdown but they took so long to do it they had really no time left to score again. It was a moot point v=because they did not recover the onside kick. But the lesson is that Dan Mullen should have used his timeouts earlier to stop the clock if the clock was running at the end of the play. Instead he was saving his last time out. Bama was not giving the Bulldogs deep balls so it was imperative the check down receiver get out of bounds after the catch or get a first down. We used “The Numbers Rule” – if you catch the ball inside the numbers – get the first down. If you catch the ball outside the numbers – get out of bounds,

The Bulldogs had to throw it in the end zone to get their touchdown sooner or make use a spike to stop the clock. The Tide, however, did a great job of playing “scorched earth” and made it tough on the Dogs by not giving them a downfield play.

One of my mentors in clock control was the late, great Jim Valvano. Jimmy V schooled me in clock control when we worked at Iona College. I go into the detail of these conversations in my book, Common Sense Rules for Everyday Leaders coming out soon.

Preparing your team for clock control can be the edge your team needs to get a big win. So working clock control in practice is time well spent.