Tony DeMeo

The Tao of Winning Football

As the 2015 football season winds down and the football “experts” claim that the game football has changed. The ESPN crowd beam about “Tempo” and rave about the genius whose team snaps the ball every 12 seconds and how many points they scored despite the fact that the geniuses team just went 1-10.

I’m sick and tired of the talking heads criticizing Paul Johnson’s Offense every time they lose a game or every time Navy is behind in a game claiming tis offense is not made for coming from behind. Who designs an offense to come from behind?

Every time a QB carries the ball it’s NOT the Wildcat. Not every offense that detaches wide receivers is “The Spread” – The game is still about blocking and tackling. Physical football is still the path to winning despite being politically incorrect. Football may have changed cosmetically but blocking and tackling still lead to wins. This isn’t sexy but true.

When discussing winning football the biggest single mistake is to consider averages. Averages mean nothing. Football is not like baseball but our sport roots are in baseball so there can be some confusion. For example a team may average 40 points per game but has run up the score on cupcakes but when the play a good defense they get shutout. I hear announcers shocked when Navy runs through the #3 rush defense in the nation. But they don’t realize that defense had played all year in a pass happy conference. So averages mean NOTHING.

So what is the path to football excellence? Let’s look at the Major Bowls and The College Playoffs.

The College Game

1. Houston 38 – Florida St. 24 – Houston scored over 25 points & had a +4 Turnover Margin. FSU’s however did not make the 25 point minimum. Ball Security is must.

2. Stanford 45 – Iowa 16 – Stanford scored over 25, held Iowa to 16 & scored TWO non-offensive Touchdowns. When a team scores a Non Offensive TD it gets no total offense yards & no time of possession which is why those 2 Stats (though 2 favorites of the “experts”) are Meaningless.

3. Ohio St. 44 – Notre Dame 28 – The Buckeyes had a +1 Turnover Margin and their defense held the Irish Offense when needed. Pretty even game.

4. Clemson 37 – Oklahoma 17 – Clemson rode DeShaun Watson & a stifling Defense to the “W” They scored +25 points while holding the Sooners to only 17 in a mistake littered game.

5. Alabama 38 – Michigan St. 0 – Bama hit a Meaningful Stat Grand Slam. The Tide scored over 25, shutout MSU, scored a Non-Offensive TD and had a +2 Turnover Margin. Total Domination & the score reflected it. My only question was with Connor Cook hurt & no run game, could The Spartans have put in their back up QB (who was a runner) & tried to get the run game going & get their defense off the field?

6. Alabama 45 – Clemson 40 – Meaningful Stats decided the Championship. Nick Saban may be the finest College Football Coach in today’s game BUT for some reason went to a high tempo offense which left his defense vulnerable. Maybe he felt he had to do something different vs a stout Clemson Defense. Bama had a +2 Turnover Margin and Scored a Non Offensive TD (which was the difference in the score) Saban’s call for the Onside Kick was the turning point in the momentum of the game.

7. TCU 47 – Oregon 41 – The most improbable of stories & a great lesson in winning. The Ducks led 31 – 0 at the half running their “Tempo” offense. The Frogs were in a fog without their star QB Trayvon Boykin. But the Ducks QB went out at halftime. Now here’s the question with a 31 point lead & a backup QB in the game would The Ducks slow the game down & seal the “W”??? NO! They would keep their foot on the gas. How many points did they think they needed to win? The Frogs’ Defense held them to 40 yards & Zero points in regulation time in the 2nd half! They also ran off very little clock which gave TCU time to tie the game. Meanwhile Bram Kohlhausen in his ONLY start in his college career threw for 351 yards to lead TCU to an historic 47 – 41 Triple overtime victory. The Ducks seized defeat from the jaws of victory by not slowing the game down & running Royce Freeman in the 2nd half. Gary Patterson knew that comebacks start with Defense.

Some final thoughts
1. You don’t have to score a lot of points just enough. A baseline start of 25 points. In the games discussed only 3 scored 25 & lost.

2. Play great Defense and protect your defense. Hold your opponent to 16 or less. Don’t keep your defense on the field. Use tempo as a tool not an ideology. If you have a lead slow the game down while you score. You can go no huddle and still slow the game. Oregon take note. In the 7 games discussed two teams held their opponent to less than 16 & both won.

3. Score a Non Offensive TD – special teams & defensive ball skills are critical. In the 7 games above 3 teams scored Non Offensive TDs & all 3 Won.

4. Ball Security is vital. Repeat Ball security is vital. So defensive pressure to get the ball is also vital. A Plus 2 Turnover Margin is Very Meaningful. All 3 teams with a +2 Turnover Margin Won their game. As a matter of fact ALL Teams that had a + Turnover Margin Won!

The Tao of Winning football is all wrapped up in blocking, tackling and just FOUR MEANINGFUL STATS.