Recently, while researching the 'white buffalo' of rushing records, I stumbled upon a very entertaining story from years gone by.
I had heard mention last year about Dallas Cowboys rookie running back, Felix Jones and his amazing pursuit of one of the most elusive and longest standing records in pro-football. The average yards per rushing attempt record. See, before Felix Jones became injured in the 6th game of the 2008 season, he was averaging 8.9 yards per attempt, .5 better than the longstanding record of 8.44 yards per attempt held by William Beattie Feathers the "Bounding Antelope" in 1934.
Some would credit Michael Vick for breaking that record in 2006, but Vick was a QB, not a running back. It's a little more difficult to produce those numbers from the RB position when there is little threat that you might be passing the ball.
In digging into the history of Beattie Feathers, I came across this really interesting and well written blog by Oskie (http://www.3sib.com/2009/09/02/the-
list-no-6-beattie-feathers/) concerning Feathers time at the University of Tennessee.
The following is an excerpt from his blog concerning the "punting duel" game of 1932 between Tennessee and Alabama. Feathers was not only a running back, but he also was the punter, safety and returner.
The year 1932, his junior season, brought more of the same for Feathers. This was the year of the “punting duel” against Alabama’s John “Hurry” Cain. During that game, which was in a rainstorm, the teams exchanged over forty punts, over twenty of which were Feathers’. Feathers punts, which often came on first down, averaged in the mid-40s. I guess that’s what we might call “playing not to lose.” Neyland was never a fan of having to drive 80 yards to score, and it is apparent, being a defensive mastermind, that he would rather play defense and score points that way.
An impressive feat, neither Feathers nor Cain ever left the game, as both men played the safety position on defense. Near the end of the duel, Feathers punted a great one to the 1-yard line. Alabama’s Jim Dildy later commented of this moment:
“We should have taken a safety and won the game 3-2.”
Instead, the Tide chose to kick it away, but the ball was kicked out of bonds only 11 yards to the 12-yard line. Despite having what must have been tired legs, Feathers still had gas in the tank. He ended up scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter for the win, 7-3.After reading this historical account, I wonder openly what would happen if an NFL coach took this same approach and punted on 1st downs, just to keep the other teams offense on the field more and control the field position better. In certain cases and with certain teams, this approach might actually work.
Wouldn't that be a game to witness?