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Could OSU’s Kicking Situation Lead to More 4th Down Attempts?



Field goal kicking might be more of a mystery than who will start at cornerback Aug. 31 in Oklahoma State’s season opener against Tulsa, but no one seems too worried about it yet.

Redshirt sophomore Matt Ammendola might be the obvious choice, but remember coach Mike Gundy signed a kicker in the 2017 recruiting class. Freshman Jake McClure is coming into Stillwater with a good chance to take that place kicker role.

In the spring game, Ammendola missed two field goals of about the same 50-yard distance. He had the leg on both but pushed them to the sides. And those were against nothing but light breeze coming in from over Gallagher-Iba Arena. To be fair though, he did hit the only kick he took during the 2016 season, and it was a 53-yarder. Still, to say Ammendola has been consistent would be wrong.

Ammendola has been known for his leg strength. After the spring game, punter and holder Zach Sinor told The Oklahoman Ammendola has “one of the strongest legs I’ve ever seen.” He is used almost exclusively for distance. In fact, Ben Grogan didn’t hit a single field goal of more than 50 yards last year. That’s why Ammendola was used on 88-of-96 kickoffs.

McClure is more of a mixed bag. He was the place kicker, kickoff specialist and punter at East Hamilton High School in Tennessee.

As for Gundy when he was asked about the status of the competition, he dodged an answer.

“They’re coming along,” Gundy said at OSU Media Day. “That’ll be an interesting part of our game this year because we’ve been using Ben coming out there and being pretty successful.”

He said he feels good about kickoffs and punts but stopped short of field goals and point afters, saying “I don’t know yet because we don’t have any experience at that position. Those guys are new.”

True, but also extremely worrisome. Grogan was a staple for the Cowboys for four years. He outscored Barry Sanders. Before Grogan, it was Quinn Sharp. And before Sharp it was some guy in golden boots.

These are relatively uncharted lands in recent years for Gundy and his staff that could be troubling if left untouched. In field goals alone, Grogan knocked in 60 points over 13 games for an average of about 4.62 per contest. Even if you drop that number by 1 for the kickers in 2017, the effect is huge.

Delete one point off that stat, and they go to overtime against Texas Tech. Yes, only theoretically, but that is context for what can happen if this situation doesn’t resolve itself.

And if you’re thinking, “It won’t matter anyway because we will just go for it,” here is a stat. OSU was No. 118 out of 128 in terms of going for it on 4th down last year, at a 12.8 percent clip. And if you’re thinking, “Well, it still won’t make a difference because our offense is going to be so lights-out,” maybe … but maybe not.

Maybe this means Gundy will let Mason Rudolph and Co. stay on the field more on field goal situations. Who knows. Gundy’s recent history hasn’t given me any reason to believe that. OSU has been outside the top 100 of college teams that go for it on 4th down in each of the last four years. They kick a lot, but they’ve also had a kicker they’ve trusted for most of the last decade.

Maybe conservative Gundy gets more liberal. But maybe he shouldn’t.

The Cowboys had more fourth down opportunities than 38 other teams last year and converted at a rate lower than 108 teams in Division I. All that made the last three words Gundy said about who will kick the field goals even more curious:

“We’ll find out.”

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