With his football team trailing 20-3 and a little more than a minute left before halftime, Florida coach Will Muschamp elected to go for it on fourth and 10 from Georgia’s 40-yard line.
In Muschamp’s mind, the juice was worth the squeeze.
Football coaches walk a thin line when they take risks. Call a trick play or go for it on fourth down successfully and you’re a genius. However, take that same risk and fail and both the media and fans will pick the decision apart.
Hindsight is 20-20. It’s easy to sit back watch a play unfold and say that the wrong call was made after the fact. It’s much tougher to make the call in the moment, taking into account momentum, opportunity, and potential success all in the span of a couple of seconds.
But the question remains: Was Muschamp’s decision to go for it Fourth and Dumb II? Or was it a head coach stepping out of the conservative box that has been one of the more vocal complaints about his offense?
Here were Muschamp’s choices: (1) Punt the ball, hopefully pin Georgia inside the 20 and go into the locker room battered and bruised; or (2) go for it even though it’s a risky situation.
Muschamp chose high risk.
Florida was in the midst of a drive where the Gators had ripped off gains of 9,8,9,7 and 11 yards to move the football beyond midfield after starting at the eight. If the Gators converted, there would be the opportunity to score points before halftime, close the deficit and steal back the momentum that had been sitting firmly on the red and black side of EverBank Field since the opening kickoff.
Muschamp made a decision and he stuck with it. In the moment he did what he thought was best for his football team, therefore the juice was worth the squeeze.
It didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right call.
“We want to play aggressively,” Muschamp said after the game. “I told the players coming into the game that we want to play an aggressive style. We got exactly what we wanted. We got a pressure look off the backside and a block four weak on the pressure. We got exactly what we canted coverage-wise.”
Despite getting what the Gators wanted in coverage the pass to Dunbar was slightly behind the receiver and he wasn’t able to run through the catch. The play resulted in a loss of three yards and a turnover on downs.
In football and in life, things are hardly ever black and white. There is a grey area that most decisions and situations fall in to. This was one of them. The opportunity to be able to put points on the board before the half and receive the ball to start the second half outweighed the risk of not converting a third-and-long.
Following the game, Muschamp said that the fact that Georgia didn’t have any time outs played into his decision to go for it. Even if Florida turned the ball over on downs Georgia would have to drive down the field with no timeouts to be able to score. He made the decision because of how much he trusts his defense.
“If they had time outs, I probably would have kicked,” Muschamp said. “But they didn’t have any time outs and I felt like we needed to call the game aggressively and let our players play aggressively.”
And isn’t this what fans want from a coach that has been criticized for being too conservative? Doesn’t everybody want Florida to take shots on offense, take risks? When you take risks, sometimes they will blow up in your face. It’s part of what makes those teams who take risks so fun to watch.
That’s been the criticism of this Florida team under Muschamp: they’re not fun to watch. The offense is boring and predictable and while teams in the SEC are moving to spread offenses and putting up big points, the Gators have been content to run a three yards and a cloud of dust offense. Applaud Muschamp and the coaching staff for stepping out of their conservative box and taking a risk.
The call didn’t work on Saturday. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right call to make.