Incremental Change

In this new semester, I’ve had little time to take my head out of the textbooks, so my blog has been malnourished of late. One of the classes I’m taking is about managing organizational change. Every manager has made adjustments due to external or internal pressures, I’ll avoid the textbook dissertation here. In football, those changes happen on the sideline between drives, they happen in the play-calling, and, with a game-controller such as Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, they happen at the line. The best opportunity to foment change, however, should be in the locker room at the half. As I said, “should be.”

There was something about the last Nevada football game that didn’t feel right. As the fans around me celebrated a narrow victory against rival Fresno State, this game felt like a defeat. In fact, it seemed like a pattern of defeats. The team sprung ahead in the first quarter and never relinquished the lead, but relied on providence and a clock more than their own efforts to survive the Bulldogs. After the Purdue game, it felt like the team lost focus after going into the locker room and after Fresno it reinforced it.

Because the statistics aren’t necessarily readily available, I took a look at the drive summaries for all six games so far and the numbers reinforce my supposition: this team hasn’t benefited from the intermission at all this year. A look at the numbers:

Nevada has outscored their opponents 42-16 in the first quarter, despite being outgained 621-690. The first quarter is the most productive for the team, even though they’ve had the first possession exactly half the time. It has been said that offensive coordinators call a script for the first drive or so. If that’s the case, they prepare well.

In the second quarter, they score a few more points with fewer yards, 44 points with 599 yards, but have given up a whopping 52 points in 675 yards. The points are somewhat skewed as Notre Dame accumulated 25 points with only 122 yards, but giving up 194 to Hawai’i yielded only 14.

Coming out of the tunnel, the rails fall right off. Nevada has scored only 10 points in the third quarter, netting 323 yards. Against Fresno, Purdue, and Cal Poly, they picked up 30, 24, and -3 yards, respectively. Yes, -3 yards against a FCS team. Meanwhile, the defense has given up 800 yards and 70 points. That’s almost two full 80-yard drives per game. The anomaly works in Nevada’s favor, yard-wise, even though they drew even with Buffalo in the third quarter.

Nevada fares better in the fourth quarter, outscoring their foes 34-23, and edging them in yards, 594-573. Note that Notre Dame and Hawai’i had parked the bus by then, so it can be argued that the team’s offense stopped the offense, not Nevada’s resistance.

The statistics show that the other team makes adjustments as the game progresses to provide a favorable outcome. Nevada trailed exactly once after the first quarter, that by three against Hawai’i. Nevada seems oblivious to the environmental changes. Is it a lack of ability to recognize, to adjust, or to communicate the necessary adjustments? Only those on the inside may know.

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