January 3, 2012

Clock management haunts UW

PASADENA - There always seems to be something innocuous about a rather run-of-the-mill first down play in the early portion of the third quarter.

And there also seems to be something rather quizzical about a head coach's decision to pull the trigger and burn one of those three highly important timeouts, particularly in the middle of a game that looks to be headed toward 'Instant Classic' status.

But Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema did it…twice.

With his team facing a rather ordinary first and 10 inside the Oregon red zone early in the third quarter, the sixth-year head coach decided to get his wind sprints in as he bolted down the Rose Bowl sideline with hopes of reaching an official before Russell Wilson snapped the ball.

Though it's next to impossible to predict what will happen throughout the remainder of the game, it seemed rather featherbrained for Bielema to surrender a timeout with his offense marching and looking poised to answer Oregon and tie the ball game back up at 35.

Bielema's explanation focused mostly on alignment issues, even though it was apparent stud tailback Montee Ball took a helmet to the groin region while trying to super-hurdle three Oregon defenders.

He could have easily said that Ball needed a quick breather, but he opted to go a different direction. And though it looked as though his offense was organized and ready to run its first down play, Bielema thwarted it with a timeout.

All momentum was lost. UW had to settle for a short Philip Welch field goal.

"It was a busted formation that we wanted to make sure we were legal on," Bielema said. "Instead of possibly losing five yards."

The second one, more so in the heat of the moment than anything else, might have been worse. Though Oregon kick returner DeAnthony Thomas stepped on the goal line while contemplating whether or not to return the Philip Welch kickoff, the rule clearly state the entire ball must cross the plane of the goal line in order for it to void any potential touchback.

Thomas eventually decided to kneel the kickoff, but the foot crossing the plane of the goal line seemed a bit fishy to Bielema. So, he used his second timeout of the half when it became apparent the officials weren't going to review the play.

"I was trying to get a read from my sideline official if we could review forward momentum," Bielema said. "He didn't understand the question where I was at, and that's why they charged me a timeout. They knew what I was trying to get answered was answered the proper way.

"So they came back and [charged] me another timeout instead of using the challenge."

There was no announcement made inside the stadium full with more than 91,000 fans, which prompted heavy boos from the Badger fans comprising the majority of Rose Bowl-goers.

Wisconsin held Oregon to a three and out on the ensuing drive. However, because there was a miscommunication with the officials Wisconsin lost out on a timeout that could have proven especially useful when UW had just two seconds remaining on the clock.

Instead, the rest is history and Wisconsin and Bielema will need to live with the loss for the foreseeable future.

"It's obviously not an outcome we're happy with," Bielema said. "It's something that we'll carry with us for the rest of our lives and entire coaching career for me. I've been out here twice and leave [with] two games that are incredible football games.

"My guess is if you don't care who won the game it was probably a fun football game to watch, but that doesn't help us out."



 

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