After getting burned by another Kick Return Touchdown, I ran the numbers on just kicking every ball out of bounds on purpose and having the opposing team start at the 35. I think it should be our strategy, and here's why:
1) The Kick Return Touchdowns have devastated us.
Yes it is a huge momentum swing when you give up a kick return, but momentum is only as powerful as we make it. If as a team we answered the kick return touchdown with another yard-churning, defense-weakening drive, momentum would still be ours. Unfortunately, not the case for this UB team. The Georgia return sparked a 17-0 run. The Ohio return sparked a 21-0 run. These returns killed our momentum and we do not have the offense to play catch up from behind.
2) If we kicked out of bounds we would have gained 23 yards of field position this year.
Kicking it out of bounds from the start this season would have resulted in 14 less points on the board and 23 yards of field position gained. Granted two 100-yard returns allowed skews the data, (if they were 50 yard gains instead of 100-yard gains, the effect on field position would be -67) but the fact that we cannot stop teams from returning kicks for touchdowns validates the data, they are that devastating.
3) The Long kick is too dangerous.
We have kicked off 25 times, with 3 of those the onside variety.
Of the 22 kicks down field, 13 were long kicks, landing inside the 10 and 9 were short kicks landing outside of the 10. Both TD's were scored on long kicks.
Long kick averages:
The returner receives the ball at the 1 yard line.
If you include the 2 long TD runs:
Average return = 33 yards
Average start = 40 yard line.
If you do not include the 2 long TD runs:
Average return = 20 yards
Average start = 29 yard line.
Clarke has only managed 3 touch backs, all against Morgan State, makes me believe they were more intimidated by our kick coverage than any other opponent and that we shouldn't expect any more touch backs unless he can increase his kickoff power.
Even without the 2 TD returns, our average opponent start is at the 29 when we kick it long, this means kicking it out of bounds will cost us 6 yards on average while eliminating the chance that we will give up the big play.
4) The Short kick is more effective but more sporadic.
On 9 short kicks the return man catches the ball on average at the 23.
3 times, the short kick has led to a fair catch, the average start when fair caught is the 26. If we could consistently force the fair catch, that would be the best option, no return and 9 yards better than the out of bounds kick.
When returned, the average return on the short kick is 7 yards, and the average start is the 31 yard line.
The short kick when returned creates 4 yards of better field position, but for 4 yards, is it even worth the uncertainty? In addition the short kick is unreliable:
Clarke kicked one to the 18 against Georgia and we allowed a 14 yard return to the 32.
Clarke kicked one against Akron to the 32, which was still able to be returned somehow 6 yards to the 38.
I would give up the 4 yards to ensure there was no chance at any return, our defense is relatively too good to give up easy points and shorter fields to the opposition.
NIU doesn't have kick return touchdown yet, and that is probably because they haven't played us yet. I implore you coach Quinn, kick it out of bounds! Do it now. Do it always. Don't let our 3-year long absence of kick coverage cost us another game!