Friday, October 9, 2009

Working OT

TigerBlog has a bookcase in his office that contains basically nothing but dust and some hard-bound books. One of the books contains every men's lacrosse media guide produced here at HQ; the other 25 or so contain the football game programs during each year going back to the 1980s.

TB broke out the 1996 binder this morning in search of something specific, which he found at the back of that year's Brown game program. Before getting to that, though, TB took a stroll down memory lane, which included some great stuff from Princeton Athletic News, Volume 64, No. 3, including:
* a story by Manish Mehta on Princeton offensive tackle Dave Maier; Manish is now "M.A." Mehta, who continues to write similar stories for the Star-Ledger
* a story about two other offensive linemen, Travis Pulliam and Jason Griffiths, which included the headline "Block Party;" the headline was probably written by Kurt Kehl, now Vice President of Communications for the Washington Capitals
* Two TB features about three of his all-time favorites from Princeton Athletics: women's basketball player Kim Allen, the subject of the "Tiger Tracks" feature that is still a staple of the game program, and a piece on Hank Towns and Cap Crossland of the equipment staff, reflecting on the old stadium in that's year's series "Palmer Memories"

Eventually, TB made it to the last page, where he found what in some ways was the forerunner of TigerBlog itself, an opinion piece entitled "The Last Word." This particular edition was written by TB-Baltimore, and it was entitled: "OT? Not for me, says this fan of college football." If TigerBlog is correct, it went on to win a CoSIDA writing contest award.

TB-Baltimore wrote about how in the first week of the first season with the OT rules, two of the four Ivy League games played went to overtime.

"What is it about ties in college football that precipitated the current overtime rule," he wrote, "a rule that breaks down a hard-fought battle between two evenly matched teams and turns it into the first-and-two-completions game you played as a kid?"

Pretty good stuff out of TB-Baltimore. No wonder he won an award.

As an aside, OT came to college football largely to protect coaches from having to explain why they played for a tie or a win.

Anyway, TigerBlog always thinks back to that piece whenever Princeton plays overtime, which it did for the 14th time when the Colgate-Princeton game was tied 7-7 after 60 minutes. Colgate ended up winning 21-14 in two OTs, leaving Princeton 7-7 in those 14 games.

It's not that TB is anti-overtime per se; it's that overtime and football don't go together so well.

Overtime is best in men's lacrosse, of course, when each second of the OT is dramatic and few OT games go past the first four-minute session. TB is not a fan of the women's lacrosse OT rule that says that the teams will play two three-minute periods regardless of how many goals are scored; OT should be sudden-death.

Baseball has a natural flow with extra-innings. Basketball overtime is two minutes too long for TB, but he can deal with it. Hockey? It's great for five minutes, after which a tie is fine, and postseason overtime hockey in college or the NHL is tremendous for its drama (unless it goes four overtimes or something like that). TB is no fan of the shootout.

Soccer on the college level has it right. Two 10-minute periods, sudden death. Drama, without getting tedious (except when it gets to the penalty kicks in the NCAA tournament; TB hates that). Of course, soccer on the college level has so many rules that are better than soccer on the international level, most notably reasonable substitution rules and most importantly a clock that is actually kept on the scoreboard for everyone to see.

Getting back to football, though, it's hard to figure out what's right. Is it the NFL, where the coin toss to start OT is so important? Is it the college way, which takes special teams basically out of the equation? The biggest problem with NFL overtime is that the end is so anti-climactic, since it's usually obvious that a team is setting up a chip-shot field goal or pounding it in from close.

At least in the college game, there is drama. Princeton scored a touchdown on its first possession, meaning that Colgate had to do likewise to force a second OT (which the Raiders did).

Given the choice between the current NFL and college formats, TB would choose the college one. Maybe if the NFL spotted the ball on the 20 and then flipped a coin, giving the winner the choice between offense and defense, the NFL format would be better.

TigerBlog's main objection to the college game is what it does to the final score and the stats. Last night's game was 7-7, which is indicative of a great defensive struggle, not 21-14, which is an average score. All the stats in the overtimes are somewhat tainted as well, though they count towards team and individual records.

Mostly, TB comes back to this: Princeton's last outright Ivy title was won with a 10-10 game against Dartmouth, and the most famous game in Ivy football history was a 29-29 epic between Harvard and Yale in 1968.

In other words, what's so bad about a tie?


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that the athletic communications department has never made note of something that I noticed. Unless I'm mistaken, Princeton played in the last tie game in college football history, the 10-10 climax to the 1995 Ivy championship, as well as the first overtime game in history, the 1996 opener against Cornell.

What are the odds of the same team ringing out the old rule and ringing in the new?

Princeton OAC said...

Good question. A couple of minutes on the web later, here is what we found. It looks like Princeton may have been in the last I-AA or Championship Subdivision tie and overtime game, but not the last and first in college football history.

The Princeton-Dartmouth tie was on Nov. 18, 1995, a week before Wisconsin and Illinois tied 3-3 on Nov. 25, 1995.

The first college football overtime game was also that season in the Las Vegas Bowl. Toledo beat Nevada 40-37. The first regular season overtime games both took place on August 31, 1996. Oklahoma State beat Southwest Missouri State and Oregon beat Fresno State.

The Princeton-Cornell overtime game was on Sept. 21, 1996.