Page 20 - The Michigan Daily - Saturday, September 10, 1983
BY JOHN KERR
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Throw 50 times a game?
Not if the team s a winner
F OR TWO SEASONS I've watched and wondered why all these Big Ten
football teams throw the ball 50 times a game. The past few years the
same teams would field carbon-copy squads - no defense or running game,
a great quarterback with good receivers - and end up with records near .500
I kept thinking "doesn't a Big Ten football coach know that he can't win
the conference title without some kind of running game and a decent defen-
se?" I mean when was the last time a pure passing team won the Big Ten?
When was the last time one finished second?
THIS PHENOMENON IS NOT confined to the Big Ten. Check out the
teams that dominate the national scene year after year. Michigan, Ohio
State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, USC, Texas, Alabama, and Georgia. All may
pass the ball on occasion, but they still usually have strong defenses and
quality ground games. When did a passing club last make a serious
challenge for the top ranking?
So the mystery of the popular passing game kept on bothering me. Then, at
the Big Ten luncheon in July, the answer finally hit me.
Excitement is better than winning
Throughout the luncheon everyone, the coaches included, agreed that
Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa were the teams to beat. Then, Wisconsin
head coach Dave McClain said this: "There are six passing teams in this
league - Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Min-
nesota - and three running teams - Ohio State, Michigan, and Iowa.
Wisconsin is balanced ... "
McCLAIN KNEW it and so did every other coach in the league.
Year in and year out, the favorites are those that run the ball. Yet
many of these coaches continue to throw it.
The reason for this is simple. It's the only way these coaches can make it
look like their teams are more competitive. It's just a facade designed to
soothe the fans and alumni by making the games more exciting.
You really can't blame the coach, after all he wants to keep his job and
throwing the ball is a good way to do this, at least for a while.
THAT'S BECAUSE A PASSING attack can buy time for coaches, and they
know it. What's more, it puts people in the seats and draws more attention to
a school. Everyone likes to see the ball put into the air more than they enjoy
three yards and a cloud of dust.
A passing offense can even very quickly turn a poor team into a decent
one. Just ship in a guy with an arm and you are ready to go. That means in-
stant gratification. Another trait of the passing game is that it can bring up-
sets. A team that throws the ball 50 times is capable of pulling off the big up-
set because when it really gets hot the scoreboard is going to light up. It also
helps to narrow the gap between otherwise uneven teams. It's difficult for a
good team to beat a pure passing squad 52-0, no matter how much better the
good team is. That's why there aren't that many blowouts in Michigan
Stadium any more. Usually the score is more like 31-17. Of course the
passing team still loses.
White passed up the run
The University of Illinois and head coach Mike White are perfect examples
of a school and a coach who have used the passing attack to their supreme
advantage yet still can't win a title. White came to Illinois in 1981 to find a
program that was not in good shape. Furthermore he saw that he had to
compete with two outstanding football powers, Michigan and Ohio State.
White also knew that he needed immediate results - his predecessor, Gary
Moeller, now Michigan's defensive coordinator, was fired after only two
years - so White went out and grabbed a junior college quarterback from
California with a groat arm. Sure enough, the Illinois team was magically
transformed into a contender! It went 7-4 in 1981 and in 1982 was favored by
some to go to the Rose Bowl. Alas after totalling up all that offensive yar-
dage through the air, Illinois could only muster seven wins in 12 games.
Their fans couldn't understand it. The fact that they had a crappy defense
and a suspect running game was never mentioned.
Some time soon, the fans will wise up and notice that pure-passing gets a
team nowhere. Then maybe the coaches will take the time to build solid
rushing offenses and good defenses. Iowa's Hayden Fry has already done so.
But the Qther Big Ten coaches Iven't and until they do Michigan, Ohio
State, and maybe Iowa will continue to dominate the Big Ten.
But of course, all those coaches already know that.
'83 Kick Off
Editor: John Kerr
Writers: Chuck Jaffe, Larry Mishkin, Ron Pollack
Advertising Manager: Pam Gillery
Sales Representatives: Linda Kaftan, Ben Pueschner, Ron Weiner
Cover by Brian Masck.
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Supplement to The Michigan Daily
Ann Arbor, Michigan - Saturday, September 10, 1983
Supplement to The Michigan DailyAnn Arbor Michigan - Saturday, September 10, 1983