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David Beaty and Punting

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A look at KU’s fourth down calls in 2017.

Kansas v TCU Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

After some discussion earlier this week in one of our roundtables, I got it into my head to look up what KU did on fourth down in 2017.

Every fourth down.

All 129 of them, in fact, which you can view on this Google Sheet if you wish.

For the sake of readability, I won’t post them all here. Instead, I’ll focus on two sheets.

On this first one, we look at every “fourth-and-short” situation, which I defined as two yards to go or less.

2017 Fourth and Short

G FP Yds to Go Time Score Result
G FP Yds to Go Time Score Result
SEMO OPP 25 1 1Q 11:27 7 First Down
CMU OPP 45 1 3Q 5:41 -11 First Down
OH OPP 10 1 1Q 0:53 -18 First Down
WVU OPP 31 2 1Q 13:00 0 First Down
WVU OPP 39 1 2Q 15:00 -4 Penalty, Punt
TT OPP 45 1 1Q 9:24 -7 Downs
TT OPP 42 1 1Q 6:04 -14 Downs
TT KU 34 1 1Q 4:04 -21 Punt
TT OPP 27 1 3Q 2:00 -23 First Down
ISU KU 34 1 1Q 8:27 -7 Punt
ISU KU 35 1 2Q 9:44 -14 Punt
ISU OPP 44 1 4Q 8:15 -38 Downs
ISU KU 34 1 4Q 4:48 -45 Punt
TCU KU 43 2 3Q 6:46 -37 Punt (Ret TD)
TCU KU 20 2 4Q 10:35 -43 Punt
BAY OPP 21 1 3Q 11:59 -15 First Down
TEX OPP 29 2 4Q 10:36 -15 Downs
OU KU 40 1 1Q 4:50 -7 Punt
OU KU 39 1 2Q 11:12 -4 Punt
OSU KU 30 1 1Q 10:14 -7 Punt
OSU KU 42 2 2Q 11:12 -14 Punt
OSU KU 33 2 2Q 8:59 -21 Punt

As you can see, the Jayhawks faced 22 fourth-and-short situations. They punted on 11 of them, exactly 50%, including one time when KU was in “Plus Territory” (past the 50-yard line). In these situations, when KU elected to go for it, they converted 6-10.

I honestly don’t think that there are a lot of questionable calls here, although you could make a case to take issue with the playcalling on the first two opportunities during the Texas Tech game. Both of those fourth-and-1s, if I’m not mistaken, were off-tackle plays that predictably got blown up.

This may sound silly, but the two calls I have the most issue with are the ones against Oklahoma. It’s early in the game, you’re playing the #4 team in the country, and you’re not willing to be aggressive and put the pressure on them? This makes no sense to me.

This next table is all of KU’s fourth downs in Plus Territory:

2017 Fourth Down Plus Territory

G FP Yds to Go Time Score Result
G FP Yds to Go Time Score Result
SEMO OPP 25 1 1Q 11:27 7 First Down
SEMO OPP 49 13 2Q 5:56 7 Punt
CMU OPP 6 6 1Q 1:29 0 FG
CMU OPP 31 4 2Q 6:45 -7 First Down
CMU OPP 11 8 2Q 5:45 -7 Penalty, FG
CMU OPP 45 1 3Q 5:41 -11 First Down
CMU OPP 41 10 3Q 3:37 -11 Punt
CMU OPP 49 10 4Q 11:00 -18 First Down
CMU OPP 19 10 4Q 6:58 -18 Missed FG
OH OPP 42 4 1Q 1:48 -11 Downs
OH OPP 38 3 2Q 3:00 -18 First Down
OH OPP 10 1 1Q 0:53 -18 First Down
OH OPP 17 10 3Q 5:35 -18 FG
OH OPP 29 13 4Q 1:00 -18 First Down
WVU OPP 31 2 1Q 13:00 0 First Down
WVU OPP 6 3 1Q 8:52 0 Penalty, FG
WVU OPP 39 1 2Q 15:00 -4 Penalty, Punt
WVU OPP 43 7 3Q 5:47 -15 Punt
WVU OPP 23 4 4Q 8:00 -15 First Down
TT OPP 45 1 1Q 9:24 -7 Downs
TT OPP 42 1 1Q 6:04 -14 Downs
TT OPP 47 13 2Q 2:26 -28 Punt
TT OPP 4 4 2Q 0:07 -28 FG
TT OPP 23 6 3Q 11:07 -25 FG
TT OPP 27 1 3Q 2:00 -23 First Down
ISU OPP 44 1 4Q 8:15 -38 Downs
KSU OPP 11 3 1Q 9:43 0 FG
KSU OPP 25 5 1Q 5:18 -4 FG
KSU OPP 35 7 2Q 12:44 -1 Punt
KSU OPP 39 14 2Q 0:07 -4 Downs
KSU OPP 41 3 3Q 10:07 -11 Punt
KSU OPP 49 17 3Q 4:22 -14 Punt
KSU OPP 29 6 4Q 0:00 -10 INT
BAY OPP 31 7 1Q 11:35 0 Missed FG
BAY OPP 21 5 2Q 14:24 0 FG
BAY OPP 23 18 2Q 4:18 -11 FG
BAY OPP 21 1 3Q 11:59 -15 First Down
BAY OPP 26 17 3Q 10:39 -15 FG
TEX OPP 19 5 2Q 12:12 -14 FG
TEX OPP 42 3 3Q 12:44 -18 Punt
TEX OPP 15 7 3Q 5:11 -18 FG
TEX OPP 29 2 4Q 10:36 -15 Downs
OU OPP 5 5 2Q 14:17 -7 FG
OU OPP 44 13 2Q 2:37 -11 Punt
OU OPP 22 8 3Q 11:52 -18 Missed FG
OSU OPP 33 8 1Q 1:36 -10 FG
OSU OPP 45 15 3Q 0:15 -31 Punt

KU had 47 fourth-down opportunities in plus territory. They punted 11 times. They attempted 18 field goals, making 15 of them. They went for it 18 times, converting 11 times.

This list I have a lot more issue with. Let’s begin at the top. Against SEMO, I can understand punting in that situation, as it was 4th-and-13. But part of me still thinks you go ahead and go for it there against an inferior opponent.

Now how about against Central Michigan? It’s late in the third quarter and you’re down 11 points. You’re at their 41-yard line. You need to go for it. Instead, you punt, they get the ball at the 9-yard line, and 11 plays later are dancing in the end zone with an 18-point lead.

Or how about the second and third quarter opportunities against West Virginia? You’re the underdog. Act like it!

I’ve already talked about the first two fourth downs against Texas Tech, but what do you have to gain by punting in Plus Territory down FOUR TOUCHDOWNS in the SECOND QUARTER?

The punt against K-State in the second quarter still makes me angry to this day. Also not sure why you punt there later in that same game early in the third quarter down 11 points when it’s just fourth-and-three.

And finally, against Texas, early in the third quarter. You’re on their side of the field. You only need three yards. You are down 18 points. Why are you punting there?

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to digest here. Overall, I do think it’s fair to criticize David Beaty for his fourth down decisions, based primary on that second table. He’s coaching football games straight up, almost as if his team is just as good as their opponent. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

All told, Kansas “went for it” on fourth down 24 times last year, converting 13 times (link to stats). Those 24 attempts put KU tied for 12th-most, which is a little misleading - 30 teams went for it more than Kansas. Of those 30 teams, only 10 won fewer than five games in 2017.

Northwestern (10-3) and Florida Atlantic (11-3) went for it the most, at 39 times.

If you take seven of the punts in plus territory and go for it instead (I’m excluding the SEMO game here), that puts KU at 31 attempts, which would have been good for seventh-most, and would have had the benefit of possibly changing the eventual outcome of some of those games.

Kansas needs to take chances. I keep repeating this stat: they lost seven of nine conference games by 22 or more points. Punting on fourth-and-seven from midfield isn’t playing to win. It’s playing to lose by 40 instead of 50.