The Times West Virginian

January 10, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Flashy passing offenses do not always win games

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Perhaps it is a generational thing – perhaps two or three generations, considering my age – but I just can’t get used to this newfangled thing they’re using in football called the forward pass.

Oh, I know it’s been around a while, and in the professional game some guys have gotten pretty darn good with it, most of them named Manning or Brady, but for whatever reason I’m stuck in the dark ages where you won with the run.

You know, Darrell Royal down there in Texas saying “there’s three things that can happen when you throw a football and two of them aren’t good” or Woody Hayes winning national championships with an offense he dubbed “three yards and a cloud of dust.”

The best football video ever is Vince Lombardi drawing his famous Green Bay sweep on a chalk board – for those who never used one, that’s sort of a tablet that you write on with this soft, white stick called chalk – saying “you got a seal here and seal here” and it gives you an alley.

And sure enough, that’s just what it did and nobody every intercepted the ball when Paul Hornung or Donny Anderson carried it through that alley that pulling guards Fuzzy Thurston and Jerry Kramer created.

I got to thinking about this the other day after running into a football coach you may remember, named Rich Rodriguez, in a local eating establishment. We had a brief talk, more about our lives than football, but you see Rodriguez and you start craving for some more Pat White and Steve Slaton carrying the ball with Owen Schmitt blocking.

See, what nobody today is figuring out is these offenses that throw the ball all over the lot in college 50 times a game, much like the one WVU now has, are being caught up with.

Oh, they’ll argue that’s true and they’ll tell you that most of their passes are like “long handoffs,” might even try to tell you how they do it with “a seam here and a seam there,” but it just didn’t seem the same to me.

So I said, I wonder if the bowl games that were just completed might show me something along this line about whether your chances of winning are better throwing the football all over the lot of running with it.

I know, Florida State won the national championship and they did it a whole lot by throwing the ball, but you might not want to argue they win that game without a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Right?

In 34 bowl games, the team that rushed for the most yardage won – now sit down, this is going to shock you pass-happy football fans – all but six of them.

That is 28-6, according that old fashion math I was taught on one of those chalk boards and with the only calculator handy being my 10 fingers.

Here’s the breakdown:

• Marshall was outgained 194-138 on the ground by Maryland but won.

• Texas Tech was outgained 287-81 on the ground by Arizona State but won.

• Texas A&M was outgained 234-259 on the ground by Duke but won.

• South Carolina was outgained 293-117 on the ground by Wisconsin and won.

• Michigan State was outgained 162-65 by Stanford and won.

• And Florida State was outgained 232-148 by Auburn and won.

Now I understand you’re going to say that some teams may have thrown to get the lead and then ran the clock out building up their rushing totals while others that didn’t want to throw fell behind and had to change game plans and give up the run.

OK, but it was 28-6.

Run may not equal win but it does a lot of things for a football team that wins games … like controlling the clock, playing tough, forcing teams up to make throwing deep easier when you want to throw deep.

A running team is a team with an attitude and an ethic that just doesn’t exist for teams that want to throw and throw and throw.

Flash is great for selling tickets, but you want to win the football game, go look at Navy, which won a bowl game with 19 passing yards.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.