Monday, November 12, 2007

Does Mike Leach Have a Point?

I've always kind of liked Mike Leach. Although he's sometimes derided as Coach PlayStation for his crazy fourth-down gambles and sometimes questionable playcalling, I think the guy is a football genius. I also like the fact that in a job where every aspect of media exposure is tightly managed, Mike refuses to stick to the script. He tells it with the bark off, like this outburst earlier this season:

However, I went to Austin on Saturday to watch the Longhorns beat Mike's Pirate School. Texas won, 59-43, in a game that was entertaining to watch, that is assuming you prefer non-stop scoring over gritty defense.

That's why I was a little surprised at Leach's comments about the poor officiating after the game.

Let's look at the calls that set off Leach. These calls came in the third quarter:

  • A pass to Tech receiver Michael Crabtree deep in Texas territory was ruled incomplete. Leach challenged the ruling, but it was upheld after a review.

  • Later in the same drive, quarterback Graham Harrell completed what would have been an 18-yard touchdown pass to Edward Britton, but it was overturned after an official review. Replays appeared to show the ball had hit the ground.

  • Moments later, an apparent touchdown was wiped out by a holding penalty, and Leach thought a late hit should have been called on Texas defensive end Henry Melton on the same play.

  • Did Leach have a point?

  • The Crabtree catch: If the video evidence was inconclusive, the ruling on the field stands. I couldn't tell from my seat in the stadium, and I haven't consulted TIVO yet. My thought at the time was that he caught the ball.

  • The Britton TD: The replay showed in the stadium clearly showed the ball hitting the ground.

  • The Holding Penalty: The holding call on Louis Vasquez was pretty obvious.

  • The Late Hit: Texas defensive end Henry Melton probably should have gotten flagged for lighting up Harrell.

  • Of course, Leach didn't mention Harrell's jackassery after one of Tech's TDs that could have easily gotten a flag. Leach laid in to Harrell on the sideline after that one. And that's the way it goes. Some things get flagged, some things don't. Is it a conspiracy? Is it incompetence? Is it bias? No. It's just the the way the game goes.

    So does Mike have a point? Does Texas get favorable calls from the refs?

    You know, Mark Mangino thought so back in 2005:

    These days, Mangino doesn't spend as much time complaining about Big 12 refs because his team is 10-0. And that's what it comes down to -- if you are making the plays and winning games, you don't have to worry about the refs.

    If anyone has grounds to talk about late hits not being called, talk to Texas QB Colt McCoy. There were about three hits on Colt in the KState game that could have been flagged. Then there was the time he got blown up by Auston English after a play was stopped in the OU game. Texas lost both of those games, but was it because of no-calls? Nope. It was about not making plays.

    Look, Leach is a smart guy. He's got a talented team and he's frustrated that things haven't gone better for them this year. I understand that. But his team has to make the plays, and right now, his defense isn't doing that. I don't think any of the calls in question would have turned the game for Tech. Texas moved the ball at will on the Red Raiders and chewed up lots of clock. That killed Leach's team more than the refs.

    Leach has lots of talent on his pirate crew. He's got a powerful offense, but his team needs to play better defense. If that happens, I think a lot of his officiating problems will disappear.


    LPJ said...

    Well, you know my position on all of this. It seems as though several teams have problems with calls when playing UT, more so than with other highly successful programs. Kinda fishy to hire an Austin native to officiate a UT home game. I tend to agree that an ineffective defense is what killed Tech, though.

    Oh, and thanks for reminding me about the Red River Shootout. Late hit controversy aside, it makes the baby jeebus smile to see Colt get Austown'd!

    Steve-O said...

    Karma is bitch, Mr. English.

    BTW, Mike Leach didn't have a problem with the officiating on Nov. 19, 2005, but Big Game Bob sure did.