One minute warning
“The Hurry Up” is Shawn "Coach of the Fans" Liotta's blog with information from his coaching experience, film study and conversations with industry leaders that may be pertinent to current trends and strategy in the Indoor Football League. Liotta is the coach of the fans of the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, who rely on fan voting for everything—including play-calling.
The final 60 seconds of a game in the Indoor Football League are some of the most exciting and frantic in all of professional football. It is not uncommon to see teams quickly trade scores during this time, with close games often coming down to who has the ball last.
One such contest developed last weekend when the Arizona Rattlers escaped Green Bay with a 30-29 victory over the Blizzard in a game that was decided in a interesting final 60 seconds.
In the IFL the clock will stop at the one-minute warning, after which it stops for all incomplete passes, players contacted into the walls (out of bounds) and scores or change of possession. One of the unique one-minute rules in the IFL is the positive yardage rule.
If a team has the lead, they may not take a knee or lose yardage on a running play. Should the team in the lead with the ball not gain positive yardage, the game clock will stop and not start until the next snap, essentially giving the team that is trailing an extra timeout. If the score is tied or a team is trailing, they can take a knee or lose yardage and the clock will continue to run.
Where many fans become confused is the strategy that teams will often employ during the final minute to ensure that they have the opportunity to score last. It is not uncommon to see a team with the leadcall an onside kick or purposely allow the opponent to score (more on this later). While these strategies may seem unorthodox, they are actually very sound approaches practiced by most teams in the league.
Let's look at the final minute of this weekend's Arizona-Green Bay game and see how the action transpired.
Green Bay scored a touchdown on a three-yard pass from Matt Behrendt to Andre McDonald to trim Arizona's lead to 30-29 with 41 seconds remaining. The Blizzard then missed the game-tying PAT.
Trailing by one with 41 seconds, the ensuing Green Bay onside kick was batted out of bounds at the two-yard line, where Arizona would have a first-and-goal. With one timeout remaining, the only option for Green Bay to have a chance in this game was to let the Rattlers score. By allowing Arizona to score in this situation quickly the Blizzard would be able to get the football back with at least 30 seconds on the clock. They'd also save their timeout and have an opportunity to score and attempt a two-point conversion to tie the game.
Arizona coach Kevin Guy has managed the clock in this manner countless times from his days in the Arena Football League and had his team prepared for this exact scenario. He instruced quarterback Darron Thomas to gain positive yardage on the quarterback sneak, but not to score. In doing so, he forced Green Bay to use their final timeout after his first down run, and was able to ultimately run out the clock after gaining positive yardage but not scoring on the second-down run.
Thomas could have easily scored on both first and second down but made a concerted effort that he secured positive yardage and went down in the field of play short of the goal line to ensure that Green Bay could not get another possession of the ball.
If the game was tied or the Rattlers were trailing in the same situation, you would have seen a similar approach. Arizona would have ideally kept the ball in bounds or even took a knee to run the clock. The Rattlers would have then attempted to score on third down ,leaving the Blizzard with little to no time on the clock to mount a scoring drive.
The time management strategy in the final minute of the half is critical to securing victory in a close game. Teams will simulate and prepare for various contingency situations that can present themselves during the final 60 seconds each week during practice. It is important for the players to understand these unique timing rules and all of our fan play-callers to recognize these situations when presented during the game.