The Texas Tech special teams have been on the top of a lot of people’s minds lately. It’s a unit that can be characterized in much the same way as one of its focal members: the deep snapper. When it does its job, no one notices, but when things go wrong, well, people start calling for the kicker’s, holder’s and that snapper’s heads. It’s not too out of the question, either. In the last two games, Texas Tech was put on the ropes by a missed extra point in overtime against Nebraska as well as suffering a 3 point swing on a blocked extra point against Texas A&M.
People say that it is unacceptable that a top ten Texas Tech team doesn’t have a solid option for extra points. So what are our options? Read on after the break.
There Is No Such Thing as Free Points
Right now, Texas Tech ranks 113 in the nation in extra point kicks. That’s 86% or 37/43 (For bonus fun stats, TTU is 8th in made extra points/game). Not to sugar coat things too much, but we’re not in the worst company. Top 25 teams TCU, Minnesota, Florida State, and Georgia Tech are all in the bottom 25 of XP percentages with Florida State coming in the highest at #98, 92%.
That said, no one’s missed more than Texas Tech. TCU was next, missing 4 of 33. I just don’t see. A number of teams have missed 3, but no one of note. The question we have to ask is what is a reasonable expectation of results. We have been spoiled by the automatic leg of Trilica and probably all expect 100% by now, but I would be happy with Oklahoma and Alabama’s 95% success rate.
As we all know, Mike Leach is a crazy man. He’s willing to take the chance at going for two every, and if you doubt that, you’re deceiving yourself. What I’m trying to look at is if it would be a good move for us. Not many sites have combined 2 point conversion statistics, but for the last 5 years (and really since it normalized in 1960, 2 years after the 2 point conversion was first introduced), the 2 point success rate has hovered around 40% nationally. Counting a single two point conversion as two extra points, this puts us at around an 80% success rate for extra points, within range of our current success rate for kicked extra points.
But that’s still nowhere near the 95% success rate that a top 10 team really should be able to attain. But, you say, TTU has a great offense, we should be able to attain a conversion rate much greater than the 40% nationally. Very good point, I say. Since 2004, Texas Tech is 50% even on 2 point conversions. That’s 12 attempts with 6 successful tries in 3.5 years.
These still aren’t anywhere near the number of attempts that the air raid would be making on a yearly basis. We’ve already attempted 43 extra points this year. Since 2004, the most anyone has completed was 6, a feat held wholly by the New Mexico State Aggies in 2004, the year before Hal Mumme arrived. They also hold the mark for most 2 point conversions attempted at 9 (66%), followed by the other Aggies of Texas A&M who went 4 of 8 in 2006 and 2005 Cincinnati (2 of 8). The 2004 NMSU team only had 34 extra point attempts, going for 2 on 25% of those, presumably because they too were having kicking troubles (21/25, 84%).
Of a special note, of the teams that have tried a large number of 2 point conversions, only 6 teams out of over 30 failed to convert at a rate matching or better than 50% (ok, I didn’t look at all the teams, there could be a number with 4 attempts and 1 success). Houston does already have 5 attempts (and 2 successes) this season. Maybe they’re going for the record?
Before I can come to any sort of conclusion, I do have to throw in some mention of the other concerns when you go for 2. No one’s ever gone for as many 2 point conversions as a TTU team that decides to abandon all ye kickers. How will defenses react? More importantly, how will the offense react? Teams that have a lot of success at converting 2 points often have a need to convert the extra point, usually in a close game and are usually playing with the momentum of the moment. Very few teams have come out after scoring on the first drive to put the bonus points on the board.
A notable exception was Oregon in their game against Arizona State last year. They scored on their first drive and, as a statement, went for two and converted. It was a massive momentum boost that held them through most of the game, until their quarterback went down for the last time with a torn ACL and MCL.
The drawbacks? Momentum is the first concern. It’s always a defensive lift to get a stop and when you only have 1 play and a potentially low conversion rate, that has to be weight heavily on your mind. In the same class of psychological concerns, you have to ask what this will do to the heads of your kickers. While we’re no longer relying on them for extra points, there will still likely be a time this year when we must ask our kicker to pick up 3 for us from a longer range.
I think I’ve put together enough information to postulate a theory: Texas Tech would be well served by abandoning the kicking game while games are close if our kickers can’t figure out what they’re doing this upcoming game. I say this because I have to believe that Tech would be very adept at putting the ball across the goal-line, especially once we have a defense on the ropes. The momentum risk is minimized since I believe that our defense, this year, isn’t feeding off of negative offensive momentum, nor is our offense getting down on itself when things don’t go right.
Let’s do it, why not? What do you think?
(Special thanks to http://cfbstats.com for any statistics)