Last week’s win over East Carolina brought up the same question that we hear about anytime a team with a decisive lead continues to score late into games; why did the coach choose to embarrass the opponent? Whether it comes from a columnist or the opposing coach, it’s a narrative I personally hate hearing around the sport of football. From the sound of it, Coach Taggart has heard enough of it too.
“We’re trying to score. To take a knee for anybody, I mean where in the rule books does it say you have to do that? For anyone to be upset, that’s not my fault,” said Taggart after the win on Saturday. “We’re trying to score points. That’s what we ask our kids to do. They work every week to score…that’s our objective is, to score.”
I couldn’t agree more with Taggart. Every single play that the offense is on the field is directed at moving towards the opponent’s end zone. Anyone who has ever watched, played or heard a cliché football line knows that you play until the last whistle is blown. Why should this change just because a team is already winning? Would you tell someone to stop being too good at something?
Would I have done the same thing as Taggart? Would I call for a shot at the end zone in the last few seconds with a 16 point lead? Probably not and it wouldn’t be in concern of the opposing team’s feelings or for my own ego. I look at it as an added risk of one of my players getting injured. However, I am not a head coach of a FBS football team, hell I’m not the head coach of anything more than my mildly successful fantasy football team.
That doesn’t mean Taggart is wrong though. In fact, he’s instilling a mentality in his team to keep going no matter what the score is. That is a mentality that is needed for a team that could find itself down late in a game and needs to score.
“We want to be an explosive offense. When we have the ball, we want to score. That’s what I told our team this week, that’s our mentality that we want to be. We want to be in attack mode all the time,” said Taggart about his offense after the game.
Football is a sport that requires each player on the field to believe that they can win or lose a game in one play. Each player needs to work in cohesion with one another, like a finely tuned watch; each player a cog that works to the same goal. If one piece slips, then the whole thing falls apart. This cohesion is needed for teams to win and it should not stop just because someone else can’t keep up.
This is not baseball, where there is numerous unwritten rules and offenses that can occur, but baseball needs that mentality. It is a sport that features a one-on-one faceoff between a pitcher and a batter. Baseball needs to have those rules to help motivate their players in such moments, but this isn’t baseball.
Taggart took the opportunity to see his team perform in the last few minutes of a live game, he took a shot and it failed; I would argue that the team needed it. For all the impressive stats that the offense has put up the season, the one stat that they don’t want to increase in is penalties. That final shot to end zone was taken away from the Bulls when they committed their ninth penalty of the game; translating into 101 yards against USF. In fact, the Bulls have picked up 686 yards on 77 penalties this season. If the team finds themselves in a situation where they need to score, they need to be perfect.
The team could find themselves going up against an opponent that could outscore the Bulls and they need to be able to fight for those last few points. They already have actually when they played Florida State. USF was down significantly, but they grinded their way in the fourth quarter to make-up what they had lost. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough and the Bulls suffered their only loss on the season, but they could find themselves in a closer game with a conference foe such as ranked teams Navy in just a few weeks or Houston in a conference championship game.
This is not a team lead by a bully, but a man who knows that every opponent has the ability to snatch a win away from his team and he is making his players see that they should not just take a knee and accept the outcome.