Is Oregon daring or foolish when it comes to extra point attempts?

The first thing we learned  about Oregon’s 35-32 loss on Saturday is that there may be a limit on the number of time a 2-point conversion attempt can be attempted on consecutive touchdowns. The Ducks went for a total of five 2-point conversions against Nebraska but were only successful on one of those attempts.

The mistake by the Oregon coaching staff in missed opportunities cost Oregon a road win at a venue that is always tough to play in Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium. Oregon could have kicked extra points. After all, the place kicker, Aidan Schneider is one of the most accurate and dependable kickers in college football, but Oregon’s coaching staff chose to go for 2.

Why is that?

Mark Helfrich was asked in his weekly Sunday night post-game media conference what factors go into the decision whether to go for one or two points.

“We’re trying to get an ideal look,” replied Helfrich to the question of what determines going for a 2-point conversion. “If it’s there we run it, if not we shift back and kick it.”

That says that the Ducks want to always show the potential for going for two, using multiple options off a formation in which the line shifts to one side with two or three players behind the re-assembled line, the center snapping the ball with the holder behind the center and a second player acting as a defender on the line next on the outside of the center and if only two players are behind the re-assembled line, a second player is behind the line of scrimmage on the outside of the center as either a flanker or is the place kicker.  By rule, seven players have to be on the line of scrimmage.

What it also says is that the game plan calls for the look of the point after attempt will always shift if the decision not to go for two is made by the holder, who directs where the snap will go.

For example, when Charles Nelson is lined up as the holder, the Ducks have shown that he has at least three options. 

  1. After looking at the defensive formation, he can signal the shifted personal to return and then receives the long snap, places the ball for the kicker’s attempt or faking the point after and running or passing the ball to a receiver in the endzone
  2. If the decision to go for two is made, the holder (Nelson) can run or pass for the conversion.
  3. The long-snapper (Tanner Carew) can snap the ball to the back behind the re-assembled or off-balanced line for an attempt. 

Helfrich also accepted full responsibility for anything that goes wrong, but it is clear that the question of the 2-point conversion really revolves around the formation.

The question was not asked to Helfrich by those in attendance of the media conference, but I s an obvious one, if the first successful point is made, wouldn’t any further 2-point attempts be made based on the score? 

An observation made by Brock Huard, who did the color commentary for ABC’s broadcast could really sum up what is going on.

Huard related a pre-game conversation he had with Nebraska coach Mike Riley in which Riley describe the Oregon coaching staff as “daring.”

Is the Oregon coaching staff “daring” or unwise in taking big chances on extra point conversions in tight games?

That remains to be seen, but we do know that some philosophies the Ducks have had, changed. An example of that are kickoffs. For years, Duck fans complained and questioned “why can’t the Ducks recruit a kicker who can kick the ball into the endzone?”

For those of us who used to be able to go to practice the answer was clear – the Ducks always had kickers able to kick the ball into the endzone, but the Oregon coaching staff had developed the tactic of kicking the ball into the coffin corner and felt the kick would by percentage, be better as it would lead to a likely position on the field to script defensive alignments.

Special Teams coach Tom Osborne could prove the point with statistical data that kicking into the coffin corner, percentage-wise, was a good decision provided the kicker was highly accurate with his kickoffs.

In the last two years however, kicker Matt Wogan has an astonishing number of touchbacks including 16-of-20 so far this year.

Over the last 10 years, special teams’ point after decision weren’t a major factor in Oregon’s wins as most of Oregon’s victories were too lopsided.

Being the underdog on the road isn’t some the Ducks were used to.

Now the question is, will Helfrich re-think the daring possibility of going for so many extra-points?


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