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The Decision To Sit On The Ball

Not a fan but there were reasons. Were they great reasons? I'll let you decide.

Among the many greivances Tar Heel fans have filed post-UVa is the one concerning Butch Davis' decision to sit on the ball at the end of regulation following the game tying touchdown from the Cavaliers.  Speaking for myself, I think you always take a stab at trying to win the game.  Sitting on the football and taking a knee twice is just too passive for my taste and reminded me of days part under The Coach Who Shall Not Be Named.

However, Davis had reasons for doing it and the UVa blog Dear Old U.Va.(H/T: The Sabre) said the move had merit:

Butch Davis had a choice in front of him when there was less than a minute on the clock. Butch's offense had turned the ball over 3 times and should have one more time.  UVA's offense had not been a threat for 58 minutes.  UNC had no timeouts.  UNC had blocked a FG and an extra point (even though it went through). UVA's kicker was young and inexperienced. UNC had only given up 3 points in its base defense.

These reasons make me believe that UNC should not have tried to get into FG position and risk a turnover with a sporadic QB. The better option for them was overtime. The only thing UVA had going for them was their defense, and they were pumped up from the last drive.  After UVA had captured momentum, it made sense to slow the game down and go to overtime where UNC could run a controlled offense and drive on the Hoos. Up to this point in the game, the UNC offense could move the ball just by pounding it up the middle in the absence of Rasi and Appleby. UVA's offense had not moved the ball with any consistency. Most importantly, UNC had to like their chances in a kicking contest with the Hoos. These reasons alone justify Butch's decision.

So let's sum up the arguments for sitting on the ball:

  • 47 seconds left
  • 50 yards from the fringe of Casey Barth's range.
  • No timeouts
  • UVa had momentum the could be broken by going to OT.
  • Cam Sexton had thrown two INTs
  • The passing game was not producing big yardage
  • UVa's kicking game was extremely suspect
  • The chances UNC could find a way to score from the 25 in OT were pretty good
  • The chances UNC could stop UVa from scoring in OT were also pretty good

Based on these factors and possibly others not mentioned in this forum, Davis thought it was better to take a chance in OT.  The effective nature of the UNC defense and the fact UNC had generally moved the ball well on the ground should have given them an advantage in OT.  On top of that UVa's kicking was the stuff of Halloween.  The problem was UVa had the momentum and instead of it being broken by the move to OT carried it over. It was a gamble on Davis' part and once he lost in a painful way.  Such is life.

I still think it is a bad move to not make a play to win the game in regulation.  Maybe if the Heels had a timeout or two left he would have and Davis said as much in his Monday press conference saying the clock management misplays were his fault.  I don't agree with the decision but it does appear looking back on it that Davis made a calcuated decision and was not just "playing it safe."

One final note on this that should placate us a tad: It is not like making the decision to run plays at the end of regulation would have changed the outcome.  It may have changed the outcome and I will always feel better about a loss if you at least try when given the chance.  However, the decision to sit on the ball did not necessarily cost UNC the game.  It cost them a small chance at winning the game.  The prevent defense prior to that point had more to do with UNC losing than the decision to play for OT.