|Auburn Stadium on November 30, 2013, Photo courtesy of Michael Fritz|
Auburn Coach Gus Malzhan, "We just made the decision..." November 30, 2013
With those five words, the Auburn Head Coach just explained how events were put in motion that resulted in an amazing victory for the Auburn Tigers that evening. Fast forward eight days later and the Auburn Tigers find themselves headed back to the National Championship game. For those of you who are not college football fans, please indulge me with this post as it is not all about football.
But we do need to talk some more football first:
The game that Coach Malzhan is discussing was the 2013 Iron Bowl played between Auburn University and the University of Alabama. It is a huge rivalry in college football, possibly the biggest.
Here's a link to a NYT's article on just how big this game is for the faithful on both sides:
The game was tied going into the last play when Alabama tried a long field goal. This is kicking the ball through the uprights of the goal posts. If that happens, the kicking team gets three points. If not...
Well, if not, usually nothing. The play is over and the other team gets to play offense. But not always. Sometimes, the play does not end as the ball is "live." In other words, the team on defense has a chance to make something happen. That is what happened here.
Alabama missed the field goal, specifically the kick was short. It was a live ball and Auburn had the opportunity to take the ball immediately and have the opportunity to score. Please remember this was the last play of the game and it was tied. If Alabama missed the field goal, the game was likely over. Unless...
Let's bring back Coach Malzhan. He decided that there was a chance that Alabama would come up short on the field goal. He also decided that he would put a player in position to make the most of that opportunity. That player was Chris Davis.
Here's the link from the Huffington Post that tells the tale and shows the actual run. As they are allowing it to be shared on social media. I am presuming it is permissible to do the same on my little blog, so here goes:
I am not going to break down the play into great detail. It's enough to say that that Chris Davis made the absolute most of the opportunity he had and won the game for his school. I am confident that this play will be put into the conversation of the "great" college finishes of all time.
As significant as this is to college football (and for some that is more than enough) I see a broader application to life. Recall Coach Malzhan's words, "We just made a decision." Very few of us ever will make such a decision to position a player to return a missed field goal. However, all of us can make decisions that will impact our lives. From where we go to school, to who we marry, to decisions we make, to situations we avoid or seek out and the list goes on. The key point is to decide and then execute. Tony Robbins in his "Personal Power" tapes (yes, younger readers, those things from the Bronze Age of the 1980s and 90s) talked about how the word "decide" has a Latin history, meaning to "cut off." In other words, you pick one option and eliminate other ones. Auburn had the option to send all of its players to the line to try to block the kick. They rejected that option. In life, we have the opportunity to make such decisions.
One may say, "But you can't compare a decision a big-time college coach makes with my decisions." I'd gently reply, "Sure I can." Here's the connection: Just as Coach Malzhan did not know how the play was going to turn out, you and I do not know how our choices will turn out. Just as Coach Malzhan had to rely on his experience and judgment, so can we in our decisions. Oh, and here may be the most important comparison. Auburn relied on its ability to execute once the opportunity presented itself. Alabama Coach Nick Saban admitted (to his credit) at his press conference that his team should have tackled Chris Smith. The chances of running a ball 109 yards untouched is a rarity in college football. Alabama, for whatever reason was not in position to make the play. They did not anticipate it.
This is important in football and life. Bobby Knight, the famed (and by some vilified) college basketball coach, has a new book out entitled, The Power of Negative Thinking. In it, he talks about how winning and losing often comes down to the team that makes the fewer mistakes. Looking back at this play, Coach Knight has a point here. Here's a link to his book.
So the goal is to be comfortable making decisions and then execute, avoiding mistakes wherever possible. You may recall a former post of mine where I reviewed Lee and Julie-Davis Colan's book, Stick with It, The Art of Adherence. I think Lee and Julie's book about executing your strategy ties in nicely with Coach Knight's advice to avoid mistakes. When you purposely seek to execute your strategies (and a strategy is nothing more than a decision wearing a collared shirt and having shaved) without mistakes, things will work out far better than just "winging it." From what I saw on that final play was that the Alabama players were not expecting that result. That was their mistake.
The good news for all of us is we do not have to worry about tackling a stellar athlete barreling down the field. What we do have to do is decide. Decide, and then execute, avoiding mistakes. Sometimes we do not have a ton of time to make decisions. That is where anticipation comes into play. We need to constantly be aware of what is transpiring around us so we can make decisions, good decisions as soon as possible. Then, all we can do is watch what happens, just as Coach Malzhan did.
Congrats again to the Auburn Tigers on this win, their SEC Championship and trip to the title game. They may very well be the national champions. Alabama will not, at least not this year. I am certain that for as long as they play football at Alabama, they will never not be prepared for a field goal being run back. All of us in our unique endeavors can also be looking for our chance to run back whatever opportunities may come our way. All we have to do is just make the decision to do so.
Be well my friends,