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Non-Film Study: USF's Failed Two-Minute Drill

I don't have video clips in front of me since I'm away from home, but ESPN 3 has a replay of the game up on its site so let's figure this all out play by play.

-- 1st and 10, ball on USF 26, 1:31 to play - Daniels is sacked by defensive tackle Myles Caragein for an 8-yard loss.

Most likely a coverage sack. Sampson Genus held off Caragein for a couple of seconds, but he slipped away and brought Daniels down. Another byproduct of having a defensive line that can get there on its own. Sometimes they force a sack, and sometimes they are given one because the QB has no one to throw to with seven in coverage.

-- 2nd and 18, ball on USF 18, 1:08 to play - Daniels to Dontavia Bogan for 4 yards.

Bogan's entire body lands out of bounds, but the officials rule him down in bounds because he was tackled backwards from where he caught the ball. (At least that's what I assume the ruling was, because otherwise it was a horrendous call.)

I think the coaches should have called their last timeout right here. Obviously no one on the field recognized that the head linesman continued to wind the clock. Bogan started walking back towards the formation, and from where we were sitting, it didn't look like anyone else was in a rush to line up for the next play either. Also you've run two unsuccessful plays in a row. It's going to be 3rd and 14, you've already lost 35 seconds off the clock, and you need to regroup.

We'll continue after the jump.

-- 3rd and 14, ball on USF 22, 0:41 to play - Daniels incomplete deep left for Stephen Bravo-Brown. PENALTY, pass interference, 15 yard penalty.

Pittsburgh was hit with five deep pass interference penalties in the game, and this one was totally intentional. Antwuan Reed was beaten by Bravo-Brown and just stuck his arm in there to make sure he couldn't catch the ball. This and a couple other interference penalties in the game are an excellent argument for applying the NFL's spot-foul pass interference rules to the college game, or at least a hybrid system where intentional interference is a spot foul. Instead of a 35-yard penalty that would have placed the ball in Pittsburgh territory, the ball only moved up to the USF 37.

-- 1st and 10, ball on USF 37, 0:34 to play - Daniels complete short right to Demetris Murray for 6 yards, out of bounds.

Nothing noteworthy about this play. Daniels just dumped it off to Murray and he got to the sideline. The announcers (who must have been talking about this earlier) bring up Holtz's decision not to spend all three timeouts on defense for the same reasons I talked about after the game on Saturday. You could have had an extra 20-25 seconds to work with, and the clock still stops on offense for first downs and plays where you get out of bounds.

-- 2nd and 4, ball on USF 43, 0:28 to play - Daniels pass short middle dropped by Murray.

The Bulls ran a quick middle screen and Murray would have easily picked up about 15 yards if he could have caught the ball. Then everyone would have probably known that a spike was forthcoming and there wouldn't have been the confusion that you'll see later on.

-- 3rd and 4, ball on USF 43, 0:26 to play - Daniels runs up the middle for 5 yards.

Pittsburgh is only rushing three and placing a spy on Daniels to keep him for running for big yardage. He got as much as he could and went down.

-- 1st and 10, ball on USF 48, 0:16 to play - Daniels complete to Faron Hornes for -2 yards. TIMEOUT USF at 0:07.

First of all, as Toro noticed while it was actually happening, the clock started before the chains were set up in the right spot. That rolling start cost USF three or four seconds. But that's not what everyone remembers about this play.

Greg Auman got an explanation on this play from offensive coordinator Todd Fitch and put it in his blog entry Monday evening.

"A couple of guys were on the wrong page with the signal, what they thought they saw and what was called," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said Sunday night. "That's why it looked stupid, to be honest with you. It was more of a communication from the sideline to the field. A couple of guys saw one signal, couple of guys saw another signal."

Fitch didn't elaborate on whether it was supposed to be a spike or not, but that does explain why Hornes and Murray didn't take off right at the snap. I think you can also assume they didn't know what play was being run. That's why Hornes was free right at the line of scrimmage, but nowhere near the sideline. Daniels wasn't looking to the right side of the field to see that two of his receivers were unaware of the play, or else he might have just thrown it away immediately.

I think this is a case where everyone wants to pile on B.J. Daniels (and we noticed that Holtz was really upset with him after they had to waste their timeout), but the evidence points to there being a play called, rather than a spike. Brian Griese went off on some long analysis about how Daniels has to be the one to notice that things are going wrong and either spike it or take a timeout, but there was no indication of a problem until after the ball was snapped. It was too late to spike the ball by then -- Daniels had no choice but to try and run the play. This is the kind of analysis I expect from a quarterback who specialized in late-game screwups like this when he played for the Bucs.

-- 2nd and 12, ball on USF 46, 0:07 to play - Daniels pass deep right INTERCEPTED by Antuwan Reed.

I'm sorry, but this has to be a Hail Mary. You don't have time to run anything else. Even Les Miles would get this right. Whether it was Fitch's play call or Daniels just not throwing it to the end zone, it was really badly done.


None of what I've written is an attempt to excuse the botch job that everyone did on that final drive of the game. The Bulls have been mostly awful in two-minute situations this year -- either too cautious or too aggressive, and now you can add some rare clock mismanagement to the list. But hopefully now you understand how it all happened.