OU football: Pull a Leach and go for it
Bob Stoops admitted again on Tuesday that he has little confidence in his place-kickers. Jimmy Stevens, Patrick O’Hara, Michael Hunnicut. No one is winning the field-goal job.
The Sooners were not very good on field goals last season. Stevens was 11-for-11 on field goals inside 40 yards but was 0-for-2 on longer kicks. O’Hara was 0-for-2 from the 30s but 1-for-2 from longer. Punter Tress Way was given the opportunity, too, and was not effective. All told, the Sooners as a team were 13-of-13 from inside 30 yards, 4-of-7 on field goals in the 30s, 1-of-6 on field goals in the 40s and 0-for-2 on field goals in the 50s.
How important were those misses? Way missed a 54-yarder at the end of the BYU game, a 14-13 loss, which can’t be laid at his feet. A 54-yarder is too long for anyone to count on.
But in a 16-13 loss to Texas, Stevens missed a 45-yarder. In a 10-3 loss at Nebraska, the Sooners missed three kicks from the 40s (46, 45 and 42 yards).
Look at it this way. Make those kicks, and OU might have been in the Big 12 title game. Crazy, huh?
Anyway, how’s this for a plan. If none of these guys can make a field goal past 40 yards, why not go all Mike Leach and just go for it on fourth down. If it’s 4th-and-5 from the 27-yard line, why futilely try a 44-yard field goal? Put the ball in Landry Jones’ or DeMarco Murray’s hands, not on Stevens’ or O’Hara’s foot.
If it’s 4th-and-2 from the 32, go for it. Fourth-and-9 from the 24, go for it. Fourth-and-4 from the 30, go for it.
Going for fourth downs does several things. It invigorates your own team. It sends a message to your offense that you believe in them. Stoops doesn’t have to tell his troops it’s because he has no faith in his kickers.
Fourth-down tries also puts defenses on their heels. Especially if you do it repeatedly. It produces a mindset that the defense is going to have to stop an offense in four plays, not three.
Much of this depends on Jones, of course. If he’s not playing well — like at Nebraska last season — then this strategy backfires. But if he becomes the solid quarterback everyone seems to think he will, particularly his own team that voted him captain, then fourth down should not be a field-g0al down for the Sooners. It should be a down of aggressive offensive play.
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