The 21 Second Rule
By Coach Drew Burnham
With all the tremendous upsets that happened this past weekend, The Curator seemed intrigued by how this could happen. I introduced him to a theory that I have which I have found to be widely true in my background in this great game. I’ve been in my fair share of upsets on both sides. In those upsets, and in every single other game, the 21 second rule has come to be true.
The average football play lasts 7 seconds. The average football game features about 150 offensive and defensive snaps plus special teams. The 21 second rule says that 3 of those plays, 21 real life seconds, will determine the outcome of every single football game. Close games, overtime games, 50 point blowouts, they’re all the same. 21 seconds decided the game.
“Alabama won by 50 points there was a lot more than 21 seconds that decided that game.” Not true. In every Alabama 50 point win (just pick one, there’s plenty to choose from), there is a moment when the rout is on and the rest of what happens after than is just a time filler. That moment is 7 of the 21 seconds. The other 14 were somewhere leading to that. Sometimes the 7 second pieces are easy to find, like a walk off game winning field goal, or a pick 6 to seal it. Sometimes they’re tougher to find, but they’re always right there if you take the time to look.
The tricky thing about the 3 plays is, during the game, you never know when they’re going to happen. Even a big situation may later prove itself to be insignificant. They can’t be found until the game is over which is why the coaches always say “play every snap like it’s the last one you’re going to get”. These 21 seconds are the keys to upsets. The 21 second rule is how Syracuse was able to beat Clemson and how Arizona State was able to knock off Washington. They never allowed the game to get away from them. They won the 21 seconds that they needed to win to make the other 59 and a half minutes not matter. It’s a true phenomenon which probably has you shaking your head right now, but give it a shot this weekend. Insert your team of choice. Watch their game this week. Take note of the big plays and the ebbs and flows of the game. When it’s over, no matter what the outcome is, you’ll be able to realize that you could have skipped the incredible majority of that game and just watched 3 plays and not missed anything important.
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