Dana Holgorsen: Analytics say take the ball first in overtime
It has been widely accepted across college football that if a team wins the overtime coin toss that choosing to begin on defense is the smart decision. Well, until now.
On Saturday afternoon, when UH won the toss Dana Holgorsen chose to put the ball in the hands of his offense to begin overtime in the Cougars’ season opener against UTSA.
This decision turned many heads but the unconventional choice was an easy one for Holgorsen to make.
“Our overtime strategy was always going to be to take the ball,” Holgorsen told the media on Monday morning.
Holgorsen said that over the past few seasons he has started to really pay attention to analytics to find ways that he can increase the Cougars’ odds of winning.
Under college football’s new overtime rules, which went into effect in 2021, teams must go for two after scoring a touchdown in double overtime. If the game goes into triple overtime, then both teams will alternate two-point attempts until a winner is decided.
Once these rules were put into play, Holgorsen and his staff did a deep dive on overtime. The results went against the traditional wisdom that going on defense to begin overtime, because it allows that team’s offense to know what they have to do to tie or win the game once they get the ball, gave a team the best chance to win the game.
“We went back and (found that) over the last six years 54 percent of teams that had the ball first (in overtime) won. Over the last three years, 56 percent of teams that had the ball first won,” Holgorsen said. “I think that’s enough to move the needle.”
Choosing to put the ball in the hands of Clayton Tune and the UH offense to begin overtime against UTSA proved to be the right choice as the Cougars came out on top after Tune’s heroics followed by a defensive stop in triple overtime.
“I’m not worried about the perception of not doing what you’re supposed to do,” Holgorsen said. “If unconventional ways of doing things give you better odds of being able to be successful, I’m going to do it. And if there’s criticism involved in it, then I don’t care.”