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NFL: Final play of Giants-Buccaneers game sparks nationwide debate

The “victory formation” does not always secure a win. Just ask former OU and Lawton quarterback Charles Thompson.
By Mike Baldwin Published: September 17, 2012

Proper etiquette when a team lines up in the “victory formation” is being debated nationally following Sunday's Giants-Buccaneers game.

New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Tampa Bay's defensive line charging full steam with the game's outcome decided crossed the line of what's proper. Bucs coach Greg Schiano said he's always coached players to work hard until the final whistle. So tempers flared when the Bucs fired off as Giants quarterback Eli Manning took the snap and was knocked on his backside.

Who is right? Who is wrong?

Consider, though, New York only led 41-34 in the waning seconds. What if Manning fumbled the ball ... the Bucs recovered ... and ran it back for a touchdown?

Former Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson knows the situation all too well. As a Lawton High School junior, the Wolverines lost a playoff gut-wrencher to Moore.

The Wolverines lined up in a “victory formation,” which usually has the quarterback hunched under center, two split backs just behind the QB and another back about 10 yards behind those players as extra, extra insurance in case the football is fumbled.

“I was taking a knee. The game was over with,” Thompson said. “But I ended up fumbling the snap and we ended up losing. You play the game until the final seconds are off the clock. That's the way you've been taught since Little League.”

Thompson hasn't seen the Giants-Bucs play from Sunday, but he experienced first hand how the “victory formation” doesn't always assure victory.

In a 1985 second-round playoff game, Lawton led Moore 25-20. Thompson twice took the snap and dropped to a knee to force Moore to use its final two timeouts. When Thompson reached down to take the third down snap, Moore's defensive front forced a fumble. Moore recovered.

“They did the same thing on the previous play,” Thompson said. “Our center wanted to retaliate. He wanted to snap it and leak out on the defender. I didn't have my hands fully set. I ended up fumbling. It's a good example why you play until the last second.”

When Moore's offense took the field, quarterback Jackie Stafford fired a pass out of bounds to stop the clock with three seconds remaining. On the game's final play, Stafford threw a touchdown pass to Terry Pritchard to produce an improbable 26-25 win.

“If a team has a chance to force a fumble, then come out and throw a ‘Hail Mary.' You can't really blame them,” Thompson said. “We lost that playoff game under that same scenario.”

Two years ago, Oklahoma State owned a three-point lead with one minute left against Troy (Ala.). Quarterback Brandon Weeden, nursing a bruised thumb, fumbled the snap. Troy recovered. The Cowboys only survived when Troy fumbled the ensuing play.

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