Wait… What? (*UPDATED*)

Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti is upset with Mike Leach and Washington State.  For trying.  Or something?

“I am kind of stunned he would keep his quarterback and crew in there,” Aliotti told reporters after the Ducks’ 62-38 win, according to The Oregonian. “And still he threw the ball with 20 seconds left. But he did.”

Oregon threw the ball 4 times in the 4th quarter — one for a touchdown, three by their starter — when they had already doubled-up the Cougars; they led 48-24 at the time.  Yes, Washington State continued to throw the ball, but they were trailing big and that is what you do when you’re losing.  And as a college team, there are are still things they can work on, even in a blowout loss against backups.

This is one of the stranger criticism I’ve ever seen.  Especially coming from a team that makes no bones about putting up numbers.  Did he really think the Cougars and their quarterback wanted to set the record for pass attempts in a game?

***UPDATE***

Aliotti has issued a formal apology:

“The bottom line is, I’m sorry,” Aliotti said in a statement released by the school. “I’m embarrassed that I got caught up in the moment after the game. There’s no excuse, but sometimes right after the game the adrenaline is still flowing and I made a huge, human error in judgment. I wish I could take it back, and I promise it won’t happen again.

“I’d like to apologize to Mike Leach and Bill Moos (Washington State athletics director), Washington State and its fans, and Oregon and our fans.”

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28 thoughts on “Wait… What? (*UPDATED*)

  1. I can sort of almost see the vague glimmer of a ghost of a point there. Aliotti is saying “We put our sixth-string defense in, and WSU proceeded to embarrass them.” Of course:

    1. Oregon wasn’t just being good sports. They were also resting their starters.

    2. Their sixth-stringers might have felt embarrassed, but I’m sure they felt better about playing against a team that was trying than against one that had given up.

    3. It’s idiotic to criticize the team that’s losing for trying to run up the score.

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  2. My alma mater has been criticized for “running up the score”… I am of two minds about it. Actually, I basically have my own code I think that teams should follow: Take out the starters, but let the kids do what they do or at least have fun out there.

    It’s frustrating to me when I see schools take out their starters and put in their backups only to have their backups run it up the middle three times and punt. Come on! Backup QB wants to throw the ball around!

    In my view, apart from letting more kids play, it’s good policy to take the starters out so that they don’t get hurt. And it’s good policy to let the backups play because they can use the experience and are an injury away from playing.

    Beyond that, though, it is a disrespect to the losing team to stop giving 100%. (I’m excluding, of course, kneeling the ball at the end of the game. That has tactical advantages.)

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  3. As a die-hard Duck, I have two comments.

    First, to say Oregon makes no bones about putting up large numbers is only a half-truth. In most games this season starting QB Marcus Mariota has not played in the fourth, nor have they passed much after they take him out. They run up large numbers through 3 quarters, but then don’t try to run up the score through the fourth. Of their 403 points this year, 63–only 15%–came in the fourth quarter, and in 3 of their 7 games they have scored no points in the 4th.

    Second, this may be the dumbest thing Aliotti, normally a class act, has ever said. It may not have been wise for Leach to leave his starting QB in ’til the bitter end, but it’s not wrong to never give up. Aliotti should apologize to Leach.

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    • Of their 403 points this year, 63–only 15%–came in the fourth quarter, and in 3 of their 7 games they have scored no points in the 4th.

      So in the other four games they’ve averaged almost 16 points in the fourth quarter. Let’s see…

      21 points in the 4th quarter of a 66-3 blowout
      14 points in the 4th quarter of a 59-10 blowout
      14 points when going into the 4th leading by a touchdown
      14 points in the 4th quarter of a 62-38 blowout

      You can see why they might have a reputation for running up the score.

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      • What Michael Cain says. If you can’t stop the second and third string, that’s not the other team running up the score. In fact the last two games are the first games Mariota has even taken a fourth quarter snap.

        And at least two of their games this season ended with Oregon taking a knee in the end zone, once at about the 5 yard line. Teams that run up the score don’t do that.

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      • I wouldn’t criticize Oregon for running up the score. But the Oregon philosophy includes the idea that more plays is better. So why criticize a team — one that is losing by multiple scores — for utilizing a similar strategy in attempting a comeback?

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    • …but it’s not wrong to never give up.

      Many years back one of Bob Devaney’s Nebraska teams beat Army at Army 77-7. After the game the national writers were accusing him of running up the score. Devaney’s answer was roughly, “I pulled the starters at the end of the first quarter and the second team at halftime. The NCAA only lets me take 88 players on the road and they all played. Today may be the only chance some of them get to play in a game this year. Am I supposed to tell them, ‘Get in there, but don’t do your best’?”

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      • The thing about that, Kazzy (and I know you don’t know that’s what was on Aliotti’s mind, and I know you know all this if it was) is that if OU was *so* damn sure WSU couldn’t come back and cared only about not getting their players hurt at that, they could put *their* third string defense in (maybe they did do that), and perhaps even just 7 or 8 of them or less, and instruct them to just lay beck off the line at the snap, not cover anyone, and just be sure not to get hurt. If they’re not so sure they would win if they did *that*, then it’s OU who are expecting WSU to concede without a test that they can’t beat whatever defensive unit OU puts out there – on the assumption that that unit would actually play real defense. And why should WSU do that? But if OU concedes that they need to play some kind of real defense, and take the chance of an injury, to be sure of the win, then why shouldn’t WSU make them do it? You don’t just get to unilaterally make the game shorter in order to eliminate the risk that comes with playing the game, just because both sides would concede that, if both sides accept that risk, it’s nearly known who will win. If you want to eliminate the risk of playing the game, then you need to accept the greater risk that you won’t win the game. The logic of expecting less than 60 minutes of physical risk to your players in the course of a win in a football game is the logic of forfeit.

        Ugh.

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  4. I don’t care for the pink helmets. I think we’re all aware of breast cancer by now… Not that the money spent on the stunt makes a measurable difference…

    I’m already regretting this comment ;)

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    • Ya know… I have generally felt similarly about the onslaught of pink this month. “Aren’t we all aware?” I would say. However, as I talked with a colleague whose mother is a breast cancer survivor as we attempted to arrange a “Wear Pink!” day for our students, I changed my tune. My colleague informed me that there are a number of women who still do not avail themselves of early detection as well as they ought to. And while there are diminishing returns amongst those of us who are “aware”, there are new dividends paid by reaching new audiences. Not only do we hope to educate our students, but every one of them who engaged their parents in a conversation about why we are participating in the campaign raises the possibility of their mothers (and fathers) who might be immune to pink flags and helmets to have their awareness renewed.

      It is also my understanding that much of the pink paraphernalia is auctioned off as memorabilia with proceeds going to research.

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  5. As a die hard Duck fan, I have to first agree with Mike’s comment about running up the score being somewhat relative, since they actually usually rest their starters pretty damn early. Nonetheless, I think it’s a silly comment for Allioti to have made. That a team might want to have only lost by 20 points and not 30 (or 40, when it comes to Oregon) seems pretty damn defensible.

    It is also the only time I have ever seen a team be criticized by anyone for running up the stats/score when that team was being embarrassed in a lopsided loss. All I could think when I first read about this this morning was, “This is the kind of press release Ted Cruz would have released if he were coaching football.”

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  6. It seems like a dumb and/or condescending comment regardless, but I need more context/tone to determine if it was actually meant as criticism, or if it might have just been an expression of surprise. But even then, surprise that they’d try to win?; surprise that they thought they could maybe come back?; surprise that even if they knew they couldn’t, they wouldn’t keep the first team in and try until the bitter end? None of that makes any sense and any of it would be an insult. I agree he owes an apology; I’m just not sure it was meant as criticism. Perhaps in the the coaching profession, any expression of surprise at another coach’s decisions is automatically understood as criticism. Even if that’s the case, I’m guessing it still wasn’t meant that way in this instance. What reason would Aliotti have to publicly criticize a coach he just trounced?

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    • Did you read the article? The language he chose seems pretty clearly critical.

      “”That’s total (B.S.) that he threw the ball at the end of the game like he did,” Aliotti said, referring to Leach after the game. “And you can print that and you can send it to him, and he can comment, too. I think it’s low class and it’s (B.S.) to throw the ball when the game is completely over against our kids that are basically our scout team.””

      To his credit, he has issued an apology.

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