Scooter Hobbs column: There’s only one logical choice

Published 7:07 am Tuesday, October 11, 2022

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The Tigers, true to form, managed to botch that, too.

There was plenty to criticize and certainly head coach Brian Kelly had a bad day at the office while gift-wrapping much of a 40-13 victory to a Tennessee team that appeared not to need much help or charity.

It happens sometimes to the best-laid plans. He’s still a good coach, very good.

There were too many foul-ups to list here, or at least openly discuss in this family-friendly environment.

So let’s zero in on one of my pet peeves, one that’s been bugging me all during Kelly’s first cruise at LSU.

You’d hope not, but, well, the coin flip is neither brain surgery nor rocket science, either.

As such, it often gets overlooked in football critiques — the NFL doesn’t even televise it — maybe because it’s not only the biggest no-brainer in football but quite possibly in all of sports.

When the anxiety builds and that coin is twirling in the air, it’s a 50-50 ball. It takes no talent, depth or conditioning.

When it comes up your way, count your blessings and just do the right thing.

Your choices basically are whether to receive the ball now or defer your option until the second half.

It’s not a trick question, although I do seem to remember many years ago when LSU’s answer somehow confused the forumla to where the Tigers had to kick off to open both halves. Fortunately, Twitter or message boards had not been invented yet. I believe the player making the call, instead of “deferring,” just said they wanted to “kick.” That left the second half “option” to the opponent and, not being dummies, whatever team it was exercised that option to receive in the second half, too.

Anyway, the correct answer here is to … defer.

Unless you’re Brian Kelly.

He likes to get the ball first and usually picks that way when he gets the option.

When winning the toss, the only time he didn’t so far this year was last week against Auburn when LSU deferred and won the game.

Saturday he chose to get the ball first and lost.

Maybe a coincidence maybe not.

But this is not related to LSU’s tone-setting muff (fancy word for a fumble) of Saturday’s opening kick off.

Kelly had his most sure-handed player, Jack Bech, back there. Kelly even had him switch to the wother side of the two-deep when his eagle eye somehow detected that’s where the kick would be headed.

That’s about as much as a coach can do.

But — and although I normally assume millionaire coaches know more than I do, I can’t stress this enough — you never, ever, never under any circumstances elect to take the ball first (when it’s your option).

It’s just wrong.

At the opening kick off, no tone has been set. Nothing that happens on it is going to put a team away or get a team back in a game.

The start of the second half is a different animal.

That’s why TV announcers in a game where viewers might be tempted to switching channels are always reminding you, “Don’t forget, State U. gets the ball to start the second half.”

Saturday was Exhibit A, but it seems to come up more than you’d think.

Tennesse kicked a field goal on the final play of the first half and got the ball back as soon as the halftime show was over. It’s like a free on-sides kick.

The Vols marched down and scored again and whatever slight doubt remained was gone at 30-7.

It can also get a team back in the game.

LSU did the same thing in the Auburn game with a late first-half touchdown that got them to within a field goal — and the ball to start the second half. The Tigers didn’t take the lead until later, but the opportunity was there.

That’s all a coach can do.

Saturday was a teachable moment.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at