Clardy's Corner: Should-Haves

I'm not a head football coach, but I sometimes play one on the internet. And to steal and paraphrase the old saying, head coaches may not always be right, but they'd better never be wrong... Troy Clardy on Bill Belichick, Les Miles and more on a special Thanksgiving Day Clardy's Corner.

Jim Harbaugh should have run the ball with inside two minutes left, the ball at the cal 13, and the game on the line. He knows this now. We all knew it then.

After the game, Harbuagh admitted that "there were a lot of ‘should haves'" against the Bears. But while that ill-fated sequence had the most direct bearing on the Big Game's outcome, it was far from the sole reason that cal was able to escape The Farm with The Axe yet again.

Plainly and simply, the Bears executed their game plan better than Stanford executed theirs. Worse, they actually beat Stanford at their own game. Control the line of scrimmage, hog the clock, and convert on third down. I think some of the Weenies conveniently forget this, but their coach actually has come up with a good game plan or two during his time in Berkeley. And while Stanford is, I still think, the better team, cal has some good players too. They did what it took to win. Give cal all the credit in the world.

While most of the Big Game aftermath centered around the fallout from Harbaugh's head-scratcher, that "should have" moment was far from the only questionable in-game decision by a head coach last week. There were plenty of "should haves" to go around.

LSU head coach Les Miles should have handled the clock better in the chaotic final minute against Ole Miss. They lost 17 seconds trying to call a timeout they never got. Then, after a long Hail Mary completion put the ball at the Ole Miss six-yard line, CBS cameras caught Miles calling for his quarterback to spike the ball.

One problem: there was only one second left on the clock. It's pointless to spike the ball with one second left, because it's impossible to do without killing the clock. If they were ready, the field goal team should have been sent out there. Failing that, Miles should have given his offense a play to run so they could score.

Instead, the completely confused Tigers never got reset, time ran out, and Ole Miss got the 25-23 win. Now some in Baton Rouge are suggesting that Miles's job status is simmering. Like a pot of gumbo. My grandmother's Thanksgiving gumbo. With shrimp. And sausage. And chicken. And okra…the only time I like okra. Put it over some rice and add a little Tabasco sauce and you've got yourself a grea—oh. Sorry…I'm a little hungry right now. Back to the Corner…

For the biggest "should have" of the week, we go down I-91 from me to New Haven, where Yale head coach (and former Stanford player and assistant) Tom Williams should have just punted the ball against Harvard.

When it's fourth-and-22 from your own 26 and you're up by three with 2:25 to play, there may be a reason to call for a fake punt…it's just probably not a good reason. Of course, the fake punt didn't convert. Of course, Harvard scored the game-winning touchdown moments later. And now Tom Williams might begin a lifetime of hearing, "Hey, aren't you the guy who…"

All of these questionable coaching decisions last week started in the NFL, as Bill Belichick should have punted the ball against the Colts. When you have the lead, and the ball is at your own 28, there's only one thing to do: punt. Anything else is indefensible, in my book. Especially when the other team is quarterbacked by some guy named Peyton Manning.

(By the way, I was okay with Harbaugh going for it on his own 28 with four minutes left. The way cal was having success driving the ball and controlling the clock, giving them a longer field would have allowed them to completely bleed the clock dry. That decision made more sense to me than a punt would have.)

Those mistakes cost those coaches their respective ballgames. Unless the lunatic fringe gets its way at LSU, none of those "should-haves" will cost any of those coaches their jobs. But that changes quickly when the "should-haves" start racking up at an alarming rate.

Which brings us to the sunny sideline at Stanford Stadium, to be inhabited this Saturday by one Charles Weis. Most everyone else calls him Charlie. Notre Dame fans probably call him every other name in the book.

It's been a season full of "should-haves" for Weis and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. With inside three minutes to go against Michigan, and Notre Dame ahead 34-30, Weis should have called running plays to force the Wolverines to blow their timeouts. Instead, Jimmy Clausen threw two incompletions, stopping the clock and opening the door for Michigan to get the game-winning score with 11 seconds left.

Weis should have forced his defense to make adjustments while Navy kept churning them up and spitting them into the backwash. Navy coach Ken Niumatololo admitted after that game that Notre Dame's defense did the exact same things they did against the Midshipmen the previous year. Any time one team says they out-schemed the other, that's a direct indictment on the coaching staff.

Weis' "should-haves" aren't just limited to the field. Judging from that unit's performance this year, Weis should have paid more attention to recruiting on defense. Weis should have developed a warmer public persona, instead of always coming across with an unfounded arrogance that doesn't reflect well on him or his program. (Then again, unfounded arrogance is all a Notre Dame fan has these days, so maybe he is the perfect guy for the job after all!)

When all of those "should haves" start racking up against the head coach, one big "should" pops into the mind of the athletic director: "maybe I should go grab my short list and get to work." By all accounts, it won't be long before Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick is doing just that.

If the terms "political capital" can be applied to football coaches, then Jim Harbaugh has more of it right now than any other Stanford Football coach since Bill Walsh walked through that door again. That hasn't changed despite his "should have" moments against cal, and it isn't likely to change any time soon.

As bright a future as Harbaugh and this program seem to have right now, we have a long, long, long way to go before things even get to the point they may be reaching in Baton Rouge, much less in South Bend. But with each "should have" moment, political capital gets spent. Sometimes, if a coach isn't careful, it all goes away, likely never to return. All Jim Harbaugh has to do on Saturday is look at the other sideline for living proof.

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RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS

Best of luck to Willie Taggart, the Stanford running backs coach who was named the head coach at Western Kentucky this week!

What an awesome, awesome run after the catch by Toby Gerhart. Do you think defensive backs like to see him coming at them in open space?

By the way, I must give major props to Dave Gonzales. Not only does he take most of the awesome pictures you see of basically any Stanford athlete in action, he was the genius behind the term "Harbaughtomy". Well done, Dave. Well done…

Arizona was game, but Oregon had more. Jeremiah Masoli won't be a quarterback in the pros, but he certainly won a lot of fans with that gutsy performance…

Our Quote of the Week comes from Washington TE Kavario Middleton, who set his goal for the Apple Cup: "We want to put up 50 points. Run the score up. Put on a show. We're just trying to make a statement that we are the real deal." Dude, at this point, hanging a half a hundred on the Cougs is like beating Fantasia Barrino in Scrabble. What have you really proven?

Paul Wulff got the vote of confidence from Washington State administrators earlier this week. Should he be congratulated or consoled?...

By the way, it looks like next year's Apple Cup will be played on December 4. In Pullman. Bring snow gear…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… I really liked the throwback uniforms Ohio State wore against Michigan last week…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday! And again, please don't drink and drive. If you do, you're a moron, that's all I can say…

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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

Busy inbox this past week. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts. But I want to focus on something that was sent to my Scout.com inbox. Want to know more than you've ever wanted to know about bands? This one is for you.

Last week, I said that I thought cal had the best band in the Pac-10. Former drum major Matthew from parts unknown responds:

"I must respectfully, yet violently disagree with your assessment of the Cal Marching Band.…When evaluating a Marching Band…you need to put emphasis on what they do on the field. And that's the place where Cal's band is extremely substandard.

My real gripe is with their marching, which is, in one word, atrocious. The most obvious mark of a bad marching band is the direction the members face when they are not standing still. When they march sideways or backwards, do they still face the audience (the press box), or do they just face whatever direction they are going? This is important for two reasons: 1) if band members are facing different directions while playing, the sound is all screwed up, and 2) it takes a certain amount of skill to march sideways or backwards and still play well, all while keeping lined up with the people next to you. I'm not talking about people making showy turns or doing weird things for visual effect -- I'm talking about basic marching skills.

This is something you'll see out of every good band in SEC country, or Big Ten/XII land in the Midwest. In the Pac-10, UCLA is the only band that makes a legitimate effort at emulating this style. Everyone else I've seen in the Pac-10, especially Cal, takes the easy way out….

So I ask of you, please watch the Cal Band closely during their halftime show….Tell me if you disagree. Then, watch UCLA closely the next time they visit. Or try to catch Michigan, or Oklahoma, or Penn State, and you'll see what I mean."

Thanks for the professional analysis. Good to hear that side of it…it gives me something to think about the next time I watch a band.

And maybe that's it. I'm just hearing a band and not watching it. In any case, here's how I hear it: the cal band's songbook is, hands down I think, the best in the Pac-10. Yes, I'm throwing up in my mouth as I'm typing it, but I have to give credit where I think credit is due. Their songs are very good, and they make them sound good. Plus, they act like they have a little fun when they play.

There is zero joy in watching the U$C band play, mostly because they seem to have zero joy while they're playing. They're so damn robotic, and they'd rather intimidate you than entertain you. UCLA is a good band, but a bit too Hollywood, more style than substance. Washington doesn't seem to be too bad (any band that has Earth, Wind & Fire in its repertoire scores points with me). None of the others really stand out to me. Well, besides ours anyway. And they stand out for a whole different set of reasons, for better and for worse.

Appreciate your thoughts...and the respectful yet violent disagreement! And even though I like their band better, I damn sure like our football team better. Despite last Saturday.

Agree with this Corner? Disagree? Got something else on your mind? Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or e-mail me at troyc@thebootleg.com. The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!

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PAC-10 PICKS

Is it me or does it seem kinda wrong to have the bulk of the rivalry games played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving? It's just not the same. Anyway…

Arizona @ Arizona State. Arizona struggles again, but other than the facts that they're at home and it's a rivalry game, there are far fewer reasons for me to pick the Sun Devils. Which obviously means ASU is going to win. Still, just to be safe, I "like" Arizona by 13.

Washington State @ Washington. Remember when the Apple Cup meant something? Maybe I should rephrase that…remember when the Apple Cup meant something positive? Those days seem to be over for the foreseeable future. I like Washington by 27.

UCLA @ U$C. If UCLA had any playmakers, I'd like their chances. But unless Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow coach ‘em up like they did last year against Tennessee, I like U$C by 10.

Last week: 2-1 (straight-up), 2-1 (ATS).
This year: 21-9 (straight-up), 17-13 (ATS).
Last year: 30-6 (straight-up), 24-12 (ATS).

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Troy Clardy hosts the Stanford Daily Update, airing every weekday at 7:30p on Cardinal Sports Network flagship radio station


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