Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma football: Lessons from the Iron Bowl epic

by Berry Tramel Modified: December 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm •  Published: December 2, 2013

Bob Stoops watched the Iron Bowl. Saw Auburn stun Alabama 34-28 with a 109-yard, last-play touchdown off a return of a missed 57-yard field goal. Stoops’ reaction?

“Probably like everybody,” Stoops said. “Wow. That was a heck of a play.”

Stoops admitted the game gave him and probably every coach in America pause to reconsider whether they’re prepared for every possible scenario in a game.

“We feel like we are,” Stoops said. “But that’s a situation that’s definitely, ‘hey, this is something to reference. May happen every five, six, eight years. But that’s something that you have on your list now.”

Stoops said it becomes a scenario a team works on five minutes in preseason camp or whenever there’s a little extra time.

I suggested to him that what it really will do is making people rethink kicking 57-yard field goals. As many have pointed out, there aren’t a bunch of sleek, open-field athletes on the field goal unit. There are a bunch of big guys trying to block.

Stoops suggested there are things a team can do to negate a return man like Auburn’s Chris Davis.

“If there’s a strong, and immediate sense of urgency, you’re really sprinting and covering, that’s what you do,” Stoops said.

In other words, you don’t block, then watch the kick like everyone else in the stands. You block, hear the thud and take off for the other end, just in case.

“You work it,” Stoops said. And yes, they are big guys who can be easily beaten on the open range. “But there’s enough of ‘em out there, you have a chance to corral him,” Stoops said.

Maybe so. But I think it’s much more likely that coaches will just forego 57-yard field goals.

They’re doing it anyway. Most of the longest field goals in football history were kicked three and four decades ago. The NCAA banned the use of kicking tees for placements in 1989. Most of the longest kicks in history were pre-’89. Here is the list:

69 yards: Ove Johansson, Abilene Christian, 1976

67 yards: Russell Erxleben, Texas, 1977

67 yards: Steve Little, Arkansas, 1977

67 yards: Joe Williams, Wichita State, 1978

67 yards: Tom Odle, Fort Hays State, 1988

65 yards: John Triplett Haxall, Princeton, 1882 (call me skeptical on this one)

65 yards: J.P. Ross, Birmingham Athletic Club, 1892, using a drop-kick (again, I’m not buying it)

65 yards: Tony Franklin, Texas A&M, 1976

65 yards: Martin Gramatica, Kansas State, 1998

64 yards: Joe Martinez, Texas-El Paso, 2008

64 yards: Tony Franklin, Texas A&M, 1976

64 yards: Russell Erxleben, Texas, 1977 (vs. OU)

63 yards: Morten Andersen, Michigan State, 1981

63 yards: Joe Duren, Arkansas State, 1974

63 yards: Scott Roper, Arkansas State, 1987

63 yards: Bill Gramatica, South Florida, 2000 (at sea level; impressive)

Here’s how much of a stretch Nick Saban took in asking freshman Adam Griffith to hit a 57-yard field goal. In NCAA history, there have been only 38 field goals of at least 57 yards. And they were made by just 30 kickers.

Of those 38 field goals, only 13 came after the NCAA’s 1989 ban of tees. Thirteen.

You’re not going to see many more. The odds of disaster are greater than the odds of success.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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