Possibly the Worst Play in Bama Football History

You might have heard the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals making a high-pitched sound this week:

[Bruce] Arians, told SiriusXM NFL Radio that officials wanted player leaps on field goal attempts made illegal but the NFL’s competition committee decided not to change the rules.

“The competition committee went through that play, and officials wanted it taken out,” Arians said in the interview. “The committee left it in, but it cannot be officiated. Whether he touches, whether it was leverage, was his foot within the framework of the defensive lineman’s feet before he jumped, all those things that go into that call, I think it’s bad for football.

“Because what you’re going to have to do now is start having centers raise their face up and get kicked in the face and things that are just dangerous to the players. I think it’s a dangerous play as it is and should be taken out of the game.”

Well, I don’t think I could care less about whether the Arizona Cardinals play football or not.  But I do care about this:


You know what this is?  It’s a snap shot right before the play that caused Alabama to lose the 1997 Iron Bowl.  How did they lose?  Well, the offensive coordinator called a pass play on 3rd-and-8 with, as you can see, 51 seconds left in the game.  Bama quarterback Freddie Kitchens threw a screen pass to Ed Scissum who promptly fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Auburn.

Auburn then took possession of the ball and eventually kicked a field goal to win the game.

The offensive coordinator who called this abomination of a play is none other than the aforementioned Arians.

What makes this play call so bad?  Several things.  First, Auburn had stopped us on first and second down and it was a long eight yards to go for a first down.  We played it safe and ran the ball on first and second downs, which is consistent with the line of thinking that we’d simply punt the ball back and drive a long way if they were going to win the game.

Auburn recovered the ball with about 42 seconds left.  Had we simply run the ball, then we could have run the clock down further before finally punting the ball back.  Auburn would have likely had the ball well into their own territory with under 20 seconds left.  They still could have won, but the task would have been much larger.

Sure, the play call is a fairly safe one at other times during a game, but consider again that we weren’t living and dying on getting first down, and if the pass had been incomplete we would not have been able any additional time off of the clock.  At the time, you’ve never beaten Auburn in Auburn and you’ve already locked up a losing season.  Make Auburn go the long way if they are going to beat you in the last minute.

We should have done the smart thing and simply run the ball.  I don’t blame Scissum for the fumble as he should never have been put in that spot.  I do assign some of the cost to Kitchens, he could have audibled, scrambled or simply thrown the ball at Scissum’s feet.  He should not have run this play.

Bruce Arians has gone on to have a great head coaching career in the NFL, but unfortunately I can’t hear his name without thinking of this play.


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