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College Football and Defenses Faking Injuries: More Plays Were Run Per Game in 1968 than in 2012

Pat Fitzgerald wants to slow down the up tempo offensesLast night, Kirk Herbstreit referred to coaches talking about faking injuries as a strategy to slow down opponents, during the Georgia-Clemson game. He had also spoken about it earlier in the week, in an article that appeared at al.com.

“There’s nothing in the rule book at this point that states defenses can’t fake injuries,” Herbstreit said. “I promise you, in some big game after some crucial second down that sets up a third down, they’re going down. It’s going to be embarrassing. It’s going to be so fake. Nothing prevents it other than being unethical.”

Oh, and then this happened in last night’s game being called by Herbstreit, as a Georgia player clearly looks to the sideline then takes a tumble.

With teams trying to figure out uptempo offensive attacks driven by mobile quarterbacks who can also pass, check out some of the quotes from this Sports Illustrated article, and see if some of them sound like they could have been uttered this year.

“The hammer that has broken things down is the option play,” says Frank Broyles of Arkansas. “If we just spread people out and let the quarterback drop back and throw like the pros, you could play a consistent defense. But now you’ve got teams with two split receivers, with runners, and with quarterbacks who can run the option as well as throw. This simply generates more offense than any defense can handle.

“If the pros had the collegiate option play, they’d go up and down the field all day,” Broyles says. “Against their standard four-man fronts, a Roman Gabriel ought to be able to roll out without any sort of fake and get a first down whenever he wanted to expose himself to that sort of thing.”

Kansas‘ Pepper Rodgers concurs: “In the pro game, because the quarterback almost never runs, you have what might be described as 10 men on offense against 11 men on defense. The colleges have 11 against 11, and the best ones are playing offense.”

That article was written in 1968. Yes, there was someone suggesting that the NFL should adopt option plays, something that was pilloried as a possibility forever. Another interesting thing in that Dan Jenkins’ article, though, is the information on the pace of play and the number of offensive plays being run by each team.

This week’s article showed some recent trends in teams running plays over the past decade. Here, though, is a comparison between the 1968 figures cited by Jenkins and last year’s numbers.

Average Plays per Game, both teams, 1968: 148.7 plays

Average Plays per Game, both teams, 2012: 142.7 plays

Yes, that is six more plays per game, 45 years ago. The difference is that the evolution of the passing, mobile quarterback has progressed even further. Teams are passing more, and the ball is not hitting the ground any more. There are 15.5 more pass attempts per game (65.5. vs. 50.0 in 1968), but the number of incompletions (26.0 to 26.8) has stayed relatively constant.

However, the concept that teams are running plays faster than ever before, or that defenses are desperate to slow them down in any number of ways, both within the rules and on the edge, is not.

“We are now getting plays off every 12 or 13 seconds,” said Ohio State’s coach. “We are moving so fast I frequently can’t get a play in from the sidelines. We’ll hit 100 plays a game soon.” That coach was Woody Hayes, not Urban Meyer.

[h/t: @rdubs007, @smartfootball]

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