The Oregon Ducks are rich in talent on both sides of the ball, having most of the pieces set for a National Championship run. The one thing holding them back? Their kicking game.
The last two seasons Oregon has been snake bitten by missed field goals, which could have propelled them to a National Championship appearance — or even two. In 2011, they missed a 37-yard field goal against USC that would have evened the score as time expired; last season, in 2012 against Stanford, they missed a potential game winning 42-yard field goal near the end of the game and then a second kick in OT from 41 yards out.
For Oregon fans, this has become gut wrenching, as they have watched their National Title hopes vanish with just one kick back-to-back years. Are they channeling Florida State’s infamous ‘Wide Right’ heartbreaks?
This season, they are 4-for-6 with a long of 38 yards — one miss coming from 37 yards out. Certainly that must improve going forward.
With such a small sample size of kicking results and and a potent offense, conventional wisdom would make you think the Ducks should just go for it on 4th downs, when it may be too close to punt. However, the Ducks have not been dominant on 4th-down conversions this season, converting only 8-of-20 attempts (40%). This is a 24.5% decrease from last year — and thus, the conundrum.
So if you are Mark Helfrich and in a situation where a field goal could send you to the National Championship game, what do you do? Go with the senior Alejandro Maldonado, who has admittedly struggled the past two seasons? Do you hand the job to inexperienced freshman Matt Wogan, who has only attempted one field goal this season? Do you leave your offense out there — which is converting 4th downs at fewer than one out of four tries — possibly passing up three much-needed points ?
Coach Helfrich will no doubt have considered this scenario. Lets hope the kicking game can respond in crunch time.
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