The warm comfort of a competent field goal kicker

In his last three games, Blankenship is a perfect 8-8 on field goal attempts.  That’s good.  But there’s a curious counterpoint to that.  Compare Georgia’s scoring averages in its first six games of the season with the three since Blankenship found his groove:

  • 1-6:  26.67 ppg
  • 7-9:  17.67 ppg

That’s a nine-point drop.  Yeah, Florida is in the last three, but so is Kentucky.  Small sample size maybe, but the question is, has Blankenship’s success led Smart (and Chaney) to be less aggressive on offense?

22 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

22 responses to “The warm comfort of a competent field goal kicker

  1. No, when you generate 400+ yards and only score 16 points against Vandy, there’s where the issue lies.

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      • Russ

        So you’re saying lining up Mackenzie as tailback with Chubb as the blocking back for a 4th and 1 with the game on the line isn’t “aggressive”? Or was it just “dumb”?

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      • I understand but I imagine Kirby would have rather had 3 TDs especially when you consider 2 of the FGs were inside the red zone. 2 4th and 3s and 1 4th and 8 made down and distance dicey to go for it. Field goals in the red zone get you beat in a low scoring game when you give up a 3 yard TD drive and have a defensive collapse on the most important series of the game.

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      • Irwin R. Fletcher

        I think that’s a pretty bad cut-off to compare average scores….but if we are going through the exercise…

        First, the offense in general is inhibited by the lack of the big play. For whatever reason you want to give to it. That puts a cap, IMO, on what we should expect in scoring. 28-32 points is a good day when you aren’t explosive.

        So let’s look at the Vandy and Carolina game where UGA had about an equal number of scoring opportunities and I think you can see the scoring difference doesn’t have anything to do with having a good kicker.

        Against South Carolina, the running game average 6.9 YPC…part of that was because they were beating Carolina up front as they had a 60% success rate on short yardage run plays and only had an 18% stuff rate.

        Now look at the Vandy game…3.35 YPC with a 0% success rate and 44% stuff rate.

        Just to show how that played out on scoring opportunities (inside the 40) which I think helps clarify that they are still trying to score TDs and not settle for FGs.
        1Q- 1st and 10 from the Vandy 30…Run for 2 yards, run for no gain, fumble/incomplete pass…FG.**
        2Q- 1st and 10 at Vandy 25…Run for 8 yards, run for no gain, run for 1 yard (5 yard penalty for false start)…convert 3rd and 7 on pass. 1st and 10 from the Vandy 12…False Start, incomplete pass, run for 5 yards, run for 7 yards, FG.++
        3Q- 1st and 10 from the 17. Pass to Nauta for 17 Yard TD.
        3Q- 1st and 10 from the 29…Pass for 7 yards, loss of 2 running, sack, Punt.**
        3Q-4Q–1st and 10 at 39…Pass for 13 yards..run for 6, loss of 1, run for 2, FG++

        So looking at the drives with the **…I don’t see how we can say they were content with taking a FG when they are passing on 3rd down..and in fact cost themselves a potential 3 points because of the sack. The FG on 4th and 3 from the 5…that may have been a bit conservative, but I think you had to get the points. BUT…I think it’s safe to assume that after the 6 yard loss on 1st down on the final scoring drive, they were content to play for 3 having a 3 point lead and having just seen the chance to kick another one lost on a sack.

        It’s a lot of words to say…no, I don’t think they are less aggressive because of Blankenship. I actually think Blankenship has helped cover the lack of ability to execute inside the 40…and again, my theory continues to be that most of that is on the line play and lack of threat on the outside at the WR position (although I’m hoping the latter is changing thanks to the emergence of Wims and Ridley)

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  2. 92 grad

    We have a clutch qb and a clutch kicker (we hope). We do not have a clutch line or 2 clutch receivers. We prob have clutch TE, but the get absorbed by the line. The RB position group is clutch but they too get absorbed by the line.

    I just think that our coaches have yet to find a play or formation that we can run and execute without getting blown up by a good defense. There has to be one thing we can do that can at least hold together against any defense and we don’t have it.

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  3. MGW

    Technically yes because we aren’t forced to go or it on fourth inside the opponents 35 anymore. Other than that or in the last seconds of a half, I doubt it.

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  4. I think part of it is that we’ve gotten less turnovers. Sure, we didn’t convert many into points to begin with but we did some. Not only have we taken away less but we’ve given away more, too, I think.

    I certainly don’t think they’ve been less aggressive, not that I thought we were all that aggressive to begin with.

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  5. correlation is not causation.

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  6. Connor

    It’s definitely a small sample size but I agree with the concept. Field goals suck. Not having a good field goal kicker is a non-issue: you’re not required to kick field goals at all. In fact relying on them can hurt the team.
    The most upsetting coaching job of the year for me so far was Vandy. That was a game where Smart and Co. played right into Vandy’s hands. Vandy is a seriously under-talented team with one redeeming feature: Disciplined defense. Not a talented defense, but well coached. They can only win games against more talented teams (ie every other team in the conference) if they can drag those teams into a low scoring, defensive affair. We obliged. Against SEC competition they’ve broken 20 points three times in the last three years. If you score 20 against Vandy you probably win. And we settled for field goals all day, put up only 16 points and they did just enough on special teams and offense to eke it out.
    Fundamentally, this is what I worry about with Smart: That as a young defensive coach he thinks the best way to win games is to play good/great defense and have the offense not lose the game. This is not a winning strategy in 2016 and beyond, at least not at the level UGA fans will be happy with. It’s Vanderbilt’s strategy.

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    • Macallanlover

      Good comment. Vandy is the best example of this, 400+ yards to 170 and we lose 17-16. It wasn’t because our FG kicker was better (Smart still didn’t trust him at that point, imo), it was because our offense could not finish off drives. Dominated them more than anyone, except perhaps SC, but lost the game. Happens, but shouldn’t happen without turnovers. You can consider the two STs disasters as turnovers but no other way to excuse this, just gave that one away. Only way FG kicking influenced that was it kept us in it with a chance at the end.

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      • Will (The Other One)

        Red zone issues on both sides are maybe worse than special teams (meaning if they were better at stopping teams from scoring TDs and better at converting red zone chances into TDs, the record would be much better, even if special teams remained a dumpster fire outside of kicking FGs.)

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        • Macallanlover

          That’s fair, we do have red zone problems on both offense and defense. I get the offensibe ones, we simply don’t use high percentage ways of moving the ball when we are around the ten, or closer. No quick hitting slants, no use of backs on swing passes to get into 1 on 1 situations outside of the perimeter. But the defense is just butt-ugly when defending the goal line, even/ though we are pretty stout on the DL and our DB shave less room to defend and should be close to the receivers and able to make a few plays. Really don’t understand that. But if we were better at just one of the two it would change the whole FG discussion.

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  7. Sh3rl0ck

    If by “less aggressive on offense” you mean “wide receivers should drop every pass when we get in to field goal range and, if in the off chance you screw up and catch it, make sure that you run backwards to ensure that it is not a first down”, then yes.

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  8. Cosmic Dawg

    I read somewhere that the average team – statistically speaking – should pretty much always go for it on 4th and short, especially on the other side of the fifty.

    If you think about it, you are giving up 25% of your opportunities each time you punt, and you skew your strategy by handcuffing yourself. For instance, by only playing three downs, you turn 2nd and 8 into an automatic passing down, when perhaps it need not be so.

    Love that stuff.

    As far as field goals go, my biggest issue is this: when you know a game is going to be super tight – you just know going in that it’s going to come down to the underdog (probably Georgia!) having to successfully run a two-minute offense in the fourth quarter, praying to get a quick three and out and the ball back to try a hail mary, etc.

    And yet as many times as he’s been in that situation, the coach doesn’t apply some of that 4th quarter urgency and aggressiveness to his strategy in the FIRST quarter. So it’s the first quarter and you’ve got the ball 4th and goal on the two yard line – yes, the FG is the safer choice, but for the rest of this game, will the odds EVER be as good to score a touchdown? Will your 1’s be as fresh against, say, your opponent’s deeper bench in the fourth quarter?

    No? So do it NOW, while the odds are 50% / 50% – before you’re backed into a corner and are forced to be successful on a drive with a 20% chance of success just to keep the game alive.

    Don’t bring a FG to a touchdown fight.
    🙂

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    • Sanford222view

      Good stuff. I basically feel you want a good kicker for kicking field goals at the end of each half when time dictates or to win the game and for long field goals (48 yards or longer). The exceptions would be 4th and very long while in FG range or when you are forced to take a FG in OT because you have the ball first and not gaining 4th down would mean zero points.

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    • Uglydawg

      Been preaching this for years. I hate to admit that Paul Johnson is right about something, but he’s got this right. But nothing is perfect. Even a chip shot fg isn’t a sure thing.
      The best offensive coaching CMR did was the year he lost confidence in his place kicker…or at least one of the best.

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