Bobby Bowden won his first four games as West Virginia’s football coach in 1970.
Then he made a big mistake.
In a game against Pittsburgh, winning 35-8 at halftime, he listened to people who said: “We have this game won. Just don’t blow it. Don’t do anything crazy.”
Bowden played the second half conservatively, with few passes and a strategy of running out the clock. And he learned a valuable lesson: “Never sit on the football.”
Pitt was determined to run the ball and control the clock. It never gave up the ball, coming all the way back to win 36-35.
It was the darkest day of Bowden’s career. His team won four of its last five games to finish 8-3, but in his mind, all anybody remembered was the loss to Pitt.
Lesson: Don’t play it safe.
— Adapted from Called to Coach, Bobby Bowden with Mark Schlabach, Simon and Schuster.