Hot Reads: The Impact of Nebraska's Special Teams Struggles in 2019
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Hot Reads: Big Plays, Few Kicks and Nebraska-Maryland

November 18, 2019

Sophomore Joseph Petrino is Maryland's place-kicker. This was him in high school.

That video features one more made field goal than Petrino has for the Terrapins in 2019, and I don't mention that as any sort of dig. Rather, it's just a way to note how strange that is.

Not only is Petrino apparently good from 50 (in a very controlled setting) with his weak foot, he was really strong as a true freshman for Maryland in 2018. He hit 85.7% of his field goal attempts last season to lead the Big Ten.

This year Petrino is 1-for-4. Maryland is 1-for-4. No one else on the team has tried one. That's the fewest field goal attempts, fewest makes and worst conversion percentage in the country, a clean sweep.

But it's not like Nebraska has been drastically better with place-kicking. The Huskers have the fourth-worst field goal percentage (46.7%) in the country. In another strong Monday-morning column from Derek Peterson he asked how many points Nebraska has left on the board due to its kicking woes.

I think you can start the bidding at 30 points. The Huskers have 15 field goal attempts in this weird season and have made seven. The national average for college football this season is a 74% conversion rate. You would've thought coming into the season that a healthy Barret Pickering was at least as good as the national average, so that's a starting point. On 15 attempts the average team would have 11 makes, so that's 12 points Nebraska's season total could be missing.

Then you have to think about all of the nowhere-land drives the Huskers have had, potential scoring marches that have ended within reasonable field-goal range if, y'know, you have a kicker and not the punter or a walk-on safety or a guy from the club soccer team. Let's conservatively say there's been at least four of those, with an average make rate, and you've got nine more points on the pile.

Beyond the immediate impact of not being able to attempt a reasonable field goal, there's also the residual impact of needing more points later after a miss or otherwise empty trip. It happened again on Saturday. Can we get to four such instances, and thus another nine points on average, this year? I feel like we could and there's your 30 in a very back-of-the-envelope sense.

I can't decide if this all means that Saturday's Maryland-Nebraska game will inevitably come down to a kick or if it couldn't possibly. The Terrapins are here, with just four field goal tries, in part because they've either scored boatloads of touchdowns at a time––31 against Howard, Syracuse, Rutgers and Indiana––or have struggled to put many points on the board at all––eight touchdowns in the remaining six games. When Maryland does score it tends to score from distance (just not field goals from distance). The Terps have 15 plays of 40-plus yards this season, tied for 21st nationally.

Nebraska has 19 such gains, ninth in the country and first in the Big Ten.

Bombs away. Unless the universe has a sense of humor. Then this game is definitely coming down to a kick.

The Grab Bag

  • Nebraska women’s basketball moved to 4-0 with a win over SIU Edwardsville on Sunday.
  • Greg Smith looks at all of those comments about Nebraska needing more talent.
  • Junior college linebacker Jamoi Hodge shares his reaction to his recent Husker visit. (Premium)

Today’s Song of Today

  • Never miss the latest news from Hail Varsity!

    Join our free email list by signing up below.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap