By STEVEN VAUGHAN, 750 THE GAME
Analytics vs. gut feeling. An argument that will go down in sports history.
Some will argue you should be all analytics, while others feel analytics are ruining sports.
Oregon head football coach Dan Lanning is in the middle of it. Lanning is known for using analytics when it comes to fourth down attempts as the Ducks went for fourth down three times without converting in Saturday’s loss to Washington.
Lanning defended his decisions to go for it on fourth down so many times at his Monday press conference. Lanning said he trusts the players and coaches to win football games, and that’s what he showed on Saturday.
“If I knew none of them were going to work you would change every situation, right?,” Lanning said. “That’s not the way those situations work. Here’s the hard part when you sit in this seat. When I make decisions, I’m a big boy. I can handle criticism. That’s going to come and that’s deserved in this position. That’s the way it works. I trust our players. I trust our coaches and when we have opportunities to win games I’m going to be aggressive.”
The Ducks were down by four and had a chance to kick a field goal heading into the locker room. Lanning decided to go for it because the Ducks had the look they wanted. It’s the one fourth down decision Lanning says maybe they should have changed.
“If you look back at all of them, ultimately the field goal before half, that’s one that I felt could go either way,” he said. “Like I said on Saturday, we felt that we had the look. If we didn’t have the look that we wanted we were going to call a timeout and we were going to kick the field goal. Could easily turn around and say kick the field goal there and feel good about it.”
Michael Penix Jr. proved why he is the Heisman favorite on Saturday. After the Ducks missed a fourth down at about midfield, Penix drove the Huskies down in two plays to score a touchdown and take the lead. Lanning says he made the right call in going for the win.
“At the very end of the game, I don’t think there’s any scenario where I wouldn’t go for it on fourth down there. You have an opportunity to put the game away. They’ve scored on more than 50% of their drives at that point in the game. 75 yards to 50 yards to 80 yards for them with a potent offense you they’re going to have a lot of success in a lot of those scenarios and they had that day.”
Going for it on fourth down to win the game was understood in Lanning’s mind. But Lanning made it clear that he thought that shouldn’t have even been in that situation.
“If we get the first (down), the game is over,” Lanning said. “What I would go back and I said it on Saturday is the 3rd-and-2. I wish we could have executed on a higher level. There was some confusion there. What’s tough is when I make those decisions it doesn’t just affect me. It affects everyone in the program. It affects everyone that cares about Oregon football and I understand that. I’m deserving of the criticism.”
The Oregon Ducks only fell one spot in the AP poll to No. 9. They have the whole season is front of them, and Dan Lanning knows that he is going to have to make more tough decisions this season.