Teaching Situational Football Part Two: Clock Management Scenarios

Sep 2, 2023 | Practice Organization, Program Development

By Mike Kuchar
Senior Researcher/Co-Founder
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikekKuchar




The last facet of situational football is teaching players about the various clock situations that occur in a game. Essentially, there are three distinct clock situations that coaches need to emphasize and players have to familiarize themselves with.

  • Two-Minute Offense
  • Four-Minute Offense
  • End of Half/End of Game


We will present how coaches are teaching these situations to players and what they are emphasizing.


Two-Minute Offense:

Offensive Standpoint:

For a tempo offensive team, this may not be applicable. But we did find that many Tempo teams will conduct a two-minute offensive period in practice so that players can become familiar with the expectations. These are the common points that coaches will make to players when working through a two-minute period:

  • No heroics
  • Don’t force the ball down the field
  • No turnovers
  • As a QB, if you anticipate a timeout, approach the referee before the play begins and tell him that you want a timeout. If a time-out is desired, get to the official as soon as possible, even if the play is in progress.
  • On QB scrambles, get as much as possible and get out of bounds or on the ground.
  • Huddle quickly. The official doesn’t have to wait on the defense to get set.
  • Request measurements as much as possible.
  • Only huddle when clock is stopped
  • QB never throws the ball away on a fourth down
  • Never spike on first down inside the plus twenty yard-line. Keep defense on its heels.
  • When ball carriers are tackled from the hash mark to the sideline, they will run the ball to the hash mark or give the ball back to the official if tackled in bounds.


Defensive Standpoint:

  • Keep the ball carrier in-bounds
  • Take your time getting off players when making tackles. Some coaches refer to this as “using opposing players, not the ground” to get up.
  • Play some form of outside leverage coverage on the perimeter to keep the ball in bounds.
  • If you’re hurt, stay down. Allow official to stop time or have trainer come out (allowing some recuperation in this tempo).



At Florida State University, defensive coordinator Adam Fuller breaks down two-minute defense into two specific scenarios: 50/50 downs or chunk play downs. 50/50 downs are situations where an offense can still run the football at least in the form of draws and screens. Whereas, “chunk” downs refer to where the offense is forced to push the ball down the field and there is a small opportunity that the ball will be thrown under 10 yards. “Let’s say that there the offense has one minute left with one timeout and they need a field goal,” said Coach Fuller. “Everybody in the world thinks that’s two-minute drill. But to me, that’s still a 50/50 situation. They are not going to run zone read, power and counter but they will still runs draws and screens because every 10 yards the clock stops.” Coach Fuller and his staff will start addressing these two-minute walk throughs the first day in camp where he will have a staffer compile various time situations to work through. He says putting those players in that specific situation is the only way to get them to succeed or fail.


Four-Minute Offense

This is a situation where the offense is trying to “milk” as much clock as possible to not give the ball back to the defense. Below are the objectives from an offensive and defensive standpoint:


Offensive Standpoint:

  • Stay in bounds
  • No time outs called
  • Make use of all of 25-second clock
  • The ball carrier stay on the ground and make an official take the ball from you
  • Do not ask for measurement on the first or second down
  • No foolish penalties (be prepared for cheap shots)
  • Injured players get off the field on their own
  • Use a simple snap count
  • Get one first down


There are many offensive coaches like the staff at Southern Miss that have buzz words to alert the offense they are in four-minute tempo. We found many use words that are associated with milk such as “Frosted Flakes, Cheerios or Cereal” to identify this tempo. These calls will tell a running back is taught not to score at the end of the game. “If he breaks it, he falls down and we don’t give the ball game,” said offensive line coach Sam Gregg. “We will be ahead and we don’t want to score.”

And being in four-minute tempo doesn’t always guarantee that you will slow the ball down. Coach Gregg- who worked for Lane Kiffin at Liberty- said they would continually alter those tempos to keep the defense off-balance. “Even if we want to run a tempo play, we can be in “Milk” it and run a tempo play,” he said. “That’s when you really get defenses uncomfortable when we were at Liberty. We would run it down to 8 seconds and run a tempo play. We would run time off the clock and run our tempo offense and pick a play that we can run against anything. I thought it killed the defense. We were holding the ball and a defense got comfortable. Then we struck them.”


Defensive Standpoint:

  • Must generate turnovers
  • Use your timeouts
  • Decline all penalties if possible