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Texas A&M Football

No role too Small: Reliable kicking is vital to A&M's title chances

June 29, 2020
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A list of 17 returning starters is the primary reason Texas A&M projects to have a successful football season.

Another important reason is an overlooked starter who won’t appear on most returning lists.

Kickers are typically not included as starters for obvious reasons. They aren’t on the field when the offense or defense begins the game.

Whether referring to him as a starter or the No. 1 kicker, Seth Small figures to loom large in 2020. He’s a good kicker and — based on his 2019 stats — is getting better.

The old saying goes that no one appreciates a kicker and until you don’t have one. That should be crystal clear at Texas A&M. Erratic kicking might have cost the Aggies a national championship in 2012.

What if Taylor Bertolet had not missed two field goals and an extra point in a loss to LSU in 2012? A one-loss A&M probably reaches the championship game and would have destroyed unbeaten Notre Dame.

Ironically, Bertolet is an example of why Small could play a big role in a potential banner season for A&M.

Early in his career, Bertolet struggled. He even lost his role as the starter — or No. 1, if you like — to Josh Lambo.

Bertolet converted just 13 of 22 field goal attempts (59.1 percent) as a freshman in 2012. Three years later, he converted 22 of 31 attempts (71 percent) and was named All-Southeastern Conference.

Likewise, Small struggled as a freshman. He faded after a fast start and converted 20 of 28 tries. Then, last year, Small hit 18 of 23 attempts and missed just once (15 of 16) inside 40 yards.

Kickers often become better with age.

Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs
Randy Bullock won the Groza Award as the nation’s best placekicker in 2011.

Bertolet did. Randy Bullock did, too. Bullock, an All-American and Groza Award winner in 2011, converted just 63.2 percent (12 of 19) as a sophomore in 2009.

A&M figures to benefit mightily if Small continues his career climb. Most teams, no matter how dominant, have a game or two in a season that could be decided by a kicker — positively or negatively.

Wes Byrum frequently saved Auburn during its 2010 national championship run. He had a game-winning field goal in overtime against Clemson and hit a game-winner against Kentucky. Fittingly, his chip shot field goal on the final play of the title game lifted the Tigers to a 22-19 victory over Oregon.

You can bet A&M coach Jimbo Fisher knows the value of a reliable kicker.

He won the 2013 national championship at Florida State with Roberto Aguayo as his kicker, who converted 21 of 22 field goal attempts that year. He was 2-for-2 in a 34-31 national championship victory over Auburn.

However, it seems more has been lost by kickers than won.

Bobby Bowden — Fisher’s predecessor at Florida State — might have won national titles in 1991 and 1992 if not for missed field goal attempts.

In ’91, the top-ranked Seminoles fell 17-16 to Miami when Gerry Thomas was wide right on a 34-yard field goal try in the final minute.

The following season, No. 3 Florida State fell 19-16 to Miami when Dan Mowrey’s last-play 39-yard field goal attempt also sailed wide right.

Of course, many other teams have had championship hopes dashed by errant field goal attempts.

One of the most notable was Oklahoma State in 2011, who appeared destined to face LSU in the national championship game.

The Cowboys were 10-0, ranked No. 2 and were averaging 51.7 points when they went to Ames for a Friday night contest with Iowa State in late November.

Oklahoma State almost escaped an upset, but kicker Quinn Sharp pushed a 37-yard field goal attempt wide right with 1:17 remaining.

Iowa State eventually prevailed 37-31 in double overtime.

Oklahoma State ultimately defeated Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, while Alabama beat LSU 21-0 in the national championship game.

A&M hopes to be in the national championship picture in late November.

A reliable kicker could be a major factor in getting there.

Discussion from...

No role too Small: Reliable kicking is vital to A&M's title chances

2,988 Views | 8 Replies | Last: 8 days ago by Agsuffering@bulaw
West Point Aggie
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AG
...title chances...I LOL'ed
Agsuffering@bulaw
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OB, I appreciate your positivity and bringing the focus back to the actual game. I almost feel bad debating. So honest question for those who pay more attention: are his struggles beyond 40 yards mental or physical?


under 40__ 40-49__50+
'19: 15/16__2/4__1/3
'18: 15/19__3/6__2/3


The improvement was consistency on the shorter kicks. He still has not shown consistency beyond 40.

-Randy Bullock was always good under 40. He did not get consistent 40-49 until senior year.
-Bertolet was inconsistent early, but had a strong leg. He never got highly consistent, just consistent enough.
-LaCamera was inconsistent his fish year, but consistent by year 2. He struggled 50+


But to the bigger point: how significant is a kicker? My guess is that a great kicker can be the difference between a contender and a champ, but not much more than that. I think our OL will lose us 2-4 games next year. I would love to be wrong, or would love for Small to be so good that he turns one of those swing games into a W. I still


---applied to 2019 season---

@UGA last year, we went for it on 4/1 on their 26 in Q3 and got stuffed. We were down 16-3 and the turf was wet. Jimbo probably figured he would rather flip a coin for the first down than flip a coin for 3 points. I agree with the decision (but not the playcall). If Jimbo had a PK he trusted, he probably kicks it. It was a defensive struggle and we had been stopping their run. That could have turned the game.

We also punted with 4 minutes remaining on their 33, down 6. Again, a god PK and JImbo kicks it. But, they ran out the clock on the next possession. IF we were only down 3, would the pressure have gotten to them? IF we had kicked a FG in Q3, would that kick be for the tie? Would UGA get more aggressive with their next possession and made a mistake? Possible, but probably not.

Anyways, a great kicker could have potentially turned that game, but probably does not.

The other game is Auburn. Small missed from 47 and 52. We kicked a FG from the 6, down 28-10 with 5:30 remaining. IF we had only been down 28-13, would JImbo have tried for the TD? Probably, b/c being down by 12 points would have done nothing for us. Were we likely to convert that TD on 4 & G from th 6? No.

The only way kicking would have had a realistic chance of turning the game is if Small had hit from both 47 and 52. That is not a reasonable ask. (I may have suggested otherwise previously, which is incorrect)
Iraq2xVeteran
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AG
OB, I appreciate your thread about actual football in this forum. In 2012, we were one win away from winning at least the SEC West. If we had beaten either Florida or LSU at home, we would have won the SEC West with an 11-1 regular season record and faced Georgia in the 2012 SEC Championship Game. In the loss to LSU, kicker Taylor Bertolet made two out of four field goal attempts, missing from 52 yards and 33 yards. He also missed his first of two extra point attempts. Of course, we lost the turnover margin 5-0, but we also missed several scoring opportunities. If we had beaten Georgia in the SEC Championship game, we would have played Notre Dame in the National Championship Game and destroyed them. The two home loses costed us our best opportunity to win the SEC West and perhaps both the SEC Championship and the National Championship. Instead, we settled for the Cotton Bowl, which wasn't considered a BCS bowl at the time, but we crushed Oklahoma 41-13 to finish 11-2.
Iraq2xVeteran
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AG
I agree with you. I also believe that a great kicker can make a difference between a contender and a champion but not much more than that. The Auburn game was not as close as the final score appeared. We trailed 28-10 before scoring 10 unanswered points. Our offense had struggled until the fourth quarter. Our defense held Auburn to 299 total yards, but gave up 193 rushing yards, including a 57-touchdown run on Auburn's opening drive. We also allowed Auburn to convert all three red zone trips into touchdown. Expecting Seth Small to hit from both 47 and 52 yards was unreasonable. If our offense could have converted those third downs to reduce Seth Small's field goal distance, maybe he would have made those attempts and changed the course of the game.
Agsuffering@bulaw
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Fair points, but 2 big problems:

1. IF the game in Tuscaloosa had been for the SECw, Bama probably watches more film on us. We got up early b/c they were not ready for what hit them. Remember that in 2013, Saban took an early bye to spend an entire week prepping for JFF. It was enough to put them over the top.


2. The probabilities are still not good
a. The probability of winning one of those 2 is still below 50%
b. UGA is probably a coin flip. They lost a very close fight to Bama.
c. There is no guarantee we run ND out. Saban was a superior coach with superior talent. Sumlin is a chump who had several elite players and many more average ones.

vs UF

JFF took a bad sack late in Q2 that put us out of FG range. MAYBE, Sumlin plays conservatively. Maybe we kick a FG and the game goes to OT. Probably not though, b/c Sumlin was an Air-Raid disciple and our offense had been moving the ball. Sumlin was looking at going up 24-10, which would have probably been decisive.

Even so, it would have been a 43 yd attempt had we run 3x for no gain. Even if we made it, there was no guarantee we win in OT. UF found a way to slow us down in the second half. I did not notice any other key decisions in the play-by-play.

vs LSU

First, they also missed a 54 yd attempt. But let's say we hit the XP and hit the 33 yd attempt.

JFF threw a pick with 4 minutes remaining. Even if we were only down 17-16, they still break off a huge TD run the next play. We are still down 24-16. We scored again, so maybe 50/50 we convert the 2 and force OT. Then maybe 50/50 we win in OT.
Agsuffering@bulaw
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Right. They stuffed us on a 4th and 1 and ran out the clock when they had to. It looked like they could have gone down the field on us in their last possession if they wanted to. They owned the trenches.
Iraq2xVeteran
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AG
You are right. Alabama was coming off an emotional 21-17 road win over LSU before they played us. They trailed 20-0 because they weren't prepared for what struck them. If the game at Tuscaloosa had determined the SEC West winner, Alabama would have definitely watched more film against us. In 2013, Alabama had spent the bye week before preparing for a road game in College Station, but we gained 628 total yards and scored 42 points against their defense. It wasn't enough to beat Alabama because we allowed 568 total yards, including 234 rushing yards and 49 points. We lost the time of possession battle 35:02 to 24:58 and the turnover margin 2 to 1.

Either LSU or Texas A&M could have won the SEC West in 2012, and I came up with five different scenarios of how that could have happened.
Scenario 1: We lose to both Florida and LSU, and LSU loses to Florida, but beats Alabama; LSU wins the SEC West. Even if Alabama beats us to finish 7-1 in SEC games, LSU would own a head-to-head tiebreaker over Alabama to win the SEC West.
Scenario 2: We beat Florida, but lose to LSU, and LSU loses to Florida, but beats Alabama; LSU wins the SEC West. With a win over Alabama, we would tie with LSU for a 7-1 finish in SEC games, but LSU would own the win the head-to-head tiebreaker over us. Even if we beat Alabama to finish 7-1 in SEC games, LSU would own a head-to-head tiebreaker over us to win the SEC West.
Scenario 3: We beat Florida, but lose to LSU, and LSU loses to Florida and Alabama; the game in Tuscaloosa would have determined the SEC West winner. If we beat Alabama to finish 7-1 in SEC games, we would own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Alabama to win the SEC West.
Scenario 4: We lose to Florida, but beat LSU, and LSU also loses to both Florida and Alabama; the game in Tuscaloosa would have determined the SEC West winner. If we beat Alabama to finish 7-1 in SEC games, we would own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Alabama to win the SEC West.
Scenario 5: We lose to Florida, but beat LSU, and LSU also loses to Florida, but beats Alabama; Texas A&M and Alabama would each have one SEC loss before the game in Tuscaloosa. This is another scenario in which that game have determined the SEC West winner. If we beat Alabama to finish 7-1 in SEC games, we would finish one game ahead of both LSU and Alabama in the SEC West standings.

Not to mention, we were very fortunate to beat Ole Miss on the road, despite losing the turnover margin 2 to 6. That problem continued against LSU when we lost the turnover margin 5-0, and it enabled LSU to score from good starting filed positions to beat us at Kyle Field. LSU won four other close games against Auburn, South Carolina, Ole Miss, and Arkansas. Auburn and Arkansas finished 3-9 (0-8 in SEC) and 4-8 (2-6 in SEC) respectively.

I agree that an SEC Championship game against Georgia would have been very close. I still believe that if we had won the SEC West and beaten Georgia in the SEC Championship game, we would have beaten Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship game, but probably not a blowout. That year, Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina all finished at least 10-3 and 14th in the final AP rankings.

https://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/sec-football/debates-down-south-how-many-sec-teams-wouldve-beaten-notre-dame-end-2012-season/
Agsuffering@bulaw
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Here's a related question. Would you rather have :

A) a bertolet type who is 75% anywhere inside 50 yards, 50% at 50+ and capable of hitting 55; or
B) a small type who is nearly automatic inside 40, but 50% 40-49, 33% 50+ and probably can't hit past 52


My lean is the consistent short game. That said, a defensively stronger team might want the big leg because they just need the 30 to score. We were stronger defensively last year. We were also blessed with a great punter who consistently pinned short punts iside the 10.

I still probably take the consistent short-game, even with an average punter. Less variability.
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