San Diego State Aztecs Won’t Punt or Kick This Season?

August 12, 2012 – 9:54 pm by Ryan Phillips

San Diego State head coach Rocky Long told Tod Leonard of the San Diego Union-Tribune that he’s considering not punting or kicking on fourth downs in 2012. Instead, Long is considering going for it on fourth downs inside an opponent’s 50-yard line in order to try and pick up a new set of downs every time.

Kevin Kelley, the head coach of Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas has developed the strategy over the years. He claims punting is an offensive failure, and is essentially a voluntary turnover.

Long summed it up this way:

“It makes sense. Additional plays would allow you to score a lot more points. It also puts a whole lot of pressure on the defense.”

“It’s a day-to-day theory. I haven’t decided because we’re getting a feel for it out here. I just read about this guy, and I don’t know if I can do that because everybody in the world is going to say this is not Football 101, right?”

On Saturday night during a scrimmage, the Aztecs converted just one of five attempts on fourth down. But the strategy has worked for Kelley and Pulaski Academy. He has posted a 104-19 record and won three state titles over the past nine years.

While we’re not sure if Long and the Aztecs will actually go through with the strategy, the fact that the head coach of a major college football program is considering it is pretty amazing. It would be interesting to see, so we’re kind of rooting for it.

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  1. 16 Responses to “San Diego State Aztecs Won’t Punt or Kick This Season?”

  2. Is it any surprise that a guy with the name “Rocky Long” has a huge set of stainless steel balls? That’s awesome. Even if it’s just gamesmanship/coachspeak to get the opponents worried about it, that’s awesome. If they go through with this, I’ll certainly be pulling for them.

    However, having been through the Weis years at ND, I know how well this usually works. But then again, Weis.

    By MJenks on Aug 13, 2012

  3. Absurd. Stupid and insane. Football is not about simply putting points on the board, it’s about keeping the other team from scoring. It’s about field position, defense, forcing turnovers, etc.
    If Rocky Long wants to coach a high school program, tell him to mimic a high school program. If Rocky Long wants to climb higher within FBS ranks, tell him to figure out how to recruit defensive talent and talented offensive players. If he does that, he is halfway there.

    By Crippled Shark on Aug 13, 2012

  4. Something tells me the 104-19 W/L record of the high school program is indicative of the fact that they are a dominant program and are playing schools that they are much better than. And thus why it works. They’re able to get away with an aggressive style b/c they are so much better than their opponents. Correlation does not imply causation.

    By Mike A on Aug 13, 2012

  5. There have been several statistical analysis done that have indicated that punting, no matter where you are on the field, is a mistake. The probabilities of succeesfully getting a first down far outweigh the possibility of not getting one with its attendant exposure to giving up points. Statistically, it doesn’t matter how good your defense is although for peace of mind, if you’re going to try this strategy, it better be damned good.

    By SportBiz on Aug 13, 2012

  6. Actually Pulaski Academy is a very small school and this tactic was employed as a desperation move at first, but it was so successful they continued it. They also on side kick after every score and never punt, even inside their own 10. Opponents spend an excessive amount of time preparing for their style and throws them off of their game plan.

    By jjoey on Aug 13, 2012

  7. Plus if your planning on using 4 downs you only need to get 2.5 yards per play to move the chains 1 pass 3 runs every set of downs should work in your favor most of the time.

    By JOhn on Aug 13, 2012

  8. Those (Crippled Shark; Mike A)who say it’s ridiculous for a D1 college coach to be considering this simply aren’t informed. It’s similar to the talking-head sportscasters repeating the “common knowledge” of their game as gospel when, in fact, those assertions have been shown to be complete tripe and/or coachspeak.

    By InformedBoomer on Aug 13, 2012

  9. Pulaski Academy is a small private school that, because of student body population, plays other small public schools. By “recruiting” student athletes to come to their school, they load up on talent and then run over their competition. I have seen them play and they are very good and routinely beat some of the larger public schools. They are just like other private schools around the country though, they tend to very good at one sport only. Their coach is very innovative and his ideas may seem odd, but his math is sound. Traditional football it is not, but I remember when the spread offence was cosidered heresy also.

    By Brian Scheile on Aug 13, 2012

  10. Paul Johnson (Ga. Tech) goes for it on 4th down quite alot and more time then not it works. But then again I’m a UGA fan, Go Dawgs!!

    By acgypsy on Aug 13, 2012

  11. At the HS level, you have to remember that:

    1. Punts don’t go that far, so you don’t “gain” much field position from doing so.
    2. Punts are susceptible to bad snaps and blocks moreso than in the pros, or college
    3. Big runbacks are more likely since the “talent gap” is bigger. One really good player returning a punt (or kickoff) can really make a difference against individual opponents who are significantly slower than him.

    Giving a team the ball on the 20 instead of the 40 or 50 doesn’t keep them from scoring very often. Keeping the ball does.

    It makes sense. Perhaps not in the pros where kicks go farther and mistakes are rarer, and perhaps not at the top level of college, but where the Aztecs play, yeah, it might make sense.

    And in the article, the College Coach is quoted as saying he’d only do it inside the opponent’s 50. Weak field goal kicker . . . .


    By Doug MacFarlane on Aug 13, 2012

  12. Hey, just happened upon this story but wanted to comment.

    Both side of this debate are wrong, as they are focusing on extremes. The fact of the matter is, punts are often used by coaches in college and in the pros as an easy way out of a tough situation. On a fourth and short (one, two or three yards), when a team is in or near its opposition’s territory, that possessing team should run a play. This is of course assuming that the coach for the possessing team has a play drawn up that he thinks has at least a 50/50 chance of succeeding in gaining a 1st down. If said possessing coach is in a situation where he does not have a ’50/50′ sort of play, or he is deep in opponents territory(to where a turnover on downs would be an almost assured 3/7 point for the opposition team) he should punt.

    I coach(OC) for a medium sized high school, and this is a the strategy that we employ. It works for us, and i believe a common sense approach such as this would work in college or in the pros. Giving up a kicking game entirely is ridiculous, but so is giving up the ball on every fourth and short.

    By Dan McConnell on Aug 13, 2012

  13. As a Washington Huskies fan, I sure hope he does use that strategy when SDSU opens up against UW September 2!!

    By Kris Baker on Aug 13, 2012

  14. It may make sense to go for the first down most of the time, but having it as a fixed policy makes no sense. If you’re 4th and inches, sure, but if it’s 4th and 25, forget about it.

    And if making the first down is going to leave you on your opponent’s 30 with 10 seconds left in the half, why bother? Just kick the field goal.

    By John David Galt on Aug 14, 2012

  15. With SDSU’s FG kicker unable to avoid shanking kicks wide right, it might be time to renew this debate.

    By Pete Xander on Sep 9, 2012

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