If you haven’t heard about it by now, let this be the end of that lapse of knowledge. The NCAA, also known as the National Collegiate Athlete’s Archenemy, has announced a proposal to restrict offenses from snapping the ball within the first ten seconds of the play clock. Any team that snaps the ball before the play clock hits 29 will be tagged with a delay of game penalty. Yes, a delay of game penalty. Ironic indeed, but it is more than just a comedic mockery of the game we have all come to love. You can read more about the reasoning and details here.
It is no secret that Nick Saban has has the power to get the NCAA thinking, so it should come as no surprise that his comments on up-tempo offenses sparked their imagination. When Saban first suggested that no huddle offenses increase the risk of injury, it seemed like a reasonable statement. It was in October of 2012 when he said that, “At some point in time, we should look at how fast we allow the game to go in terms of player safety. The team gets in the same formation group, you can’t substitute defensive players, you go on a 14-, 16-, 18-play drive and they’re snapping the ball as fast as you can go and you look out there and all your players are walking around and can’t even get lined up. That’s when guys have a much greater chance of getting hurt when they’re not ready to play.” Now its February of 2014 and that spark of imagination could erupt into a catastrophic reality. Coaches and fans around the nation are fighting against it, and many are realizing that there is no statistical evidence that supports a claim of increased injury risk.
Saban also asked, “Is this what we want football to be?” Well, Mr. Saban, if you’re a fan of the Bruins, Ducks, Rebels, Bears, or nearly any other team in the nation, the answer is yes. This is what we want football to be. Remember the ‘Bama v. LSU game in 2011? Of course you do. And unless you were a senior citizen who can’t follow the modern game, it, when put simply, sucked. 9-6 was the final score, LSU coming out victorious — and no, that wasn’t a touchdown and a safety to make nine, it was three field goals. Mind you, it was an even lower scoring game at the end of regulation. The fourth quarter closed at 6-6. For a game touted as “The Game of The Century”, it was a fraction of a percent as interesting as the hype was. On the other hand, the shootout between Baylor and West Virginia in 2012 was about as exciting as it gets. Checking the score periodically, from say, a mobile device, made it hard to remember it wasn’t a college basketball game. That is what fans want.
Washington State coach Mike Leach hit the nail on the head when he said,“First off, [I] doubt it will pass. Second, it’s ridiculous. All this tinkering is ridiculous. I think it deteriorates the game. It’s always been a game of creativity and strategy. So anytime someone doesn’t want to go back to the drawing board or re-work their solutions to problems, then what they do is to beg for a rule. I think it’s disgusting.” Disgusting it is, and hopefully the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel will recognize that prior to March 6th, when a verdict should arrive.
So how does this affect UCLA? Well, the Bruins, who ranked 21st nationally in points scored per game last season, did so with an high octane offense. With the return of the dual threat, signal calling quarterback that is Brett Hundley, it would be quite a shame to restrict the programs athletic and mental talents. Through a game of swing routes that caught off guard defenses in the act, UCLA was able to move the ball and sustain drives. Take that away and not only do you make the game less fun, but you devalue the masterminds of college football like UCLA’s offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzonne. Mazzonne, who faltered here and there, was for the most part a heist master. Those who have played Grand Theft Auto V might compare him to Lester. No, not because he uses a cane or robs banks (He doesn’t), but because he orchestrates the game in a nearly fool-proof manner — execution permitting. Behind defensive minded head coach Jim Mora and along side the rest of the coaching staff, Mazzone is making UCLA Football and up-tempo football worth watching.
Quoting the great Vince Lombardi, “Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling.”
Those in favor of the change are trying to find those non-existent things. Make your tackles, shed your blocks, and it will not matter how fast the ball gets snapped.