Rocky Long defends controversial fourth-down strategy after Week 1
Posted by: Chris Vannini on September 4, 2012
Rocky Long made headlines in the preseason when he decided to look at going for fourth downs on the opponent's side of the field and not kicking extra points. Well, the early returns are in.
The Aztecs went 2-for-3 on fourth down attempts in a 21-12 loss to Washington. The second conversion was 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter and resulted in the team's second touchdown. The failed attempt came on the next drive at the Washington 8-yard line.
SDSU failed on both two-point conversion attempts and also punted once with quarterback Ryan Katz at Washington's 37-yard line. The punt was downed at the 8-yard line.
Long did not agree with a reporter's assertion that the strategy didn't work.
"I'm not sure it didn't work. You're saying it didn't work. I'm not sure it didn't work," he said. "We would have not scored a second touchdown if we don't go for fourth down. If we punted or kick a field goal, we wouldn't have scored a second touchdown. The first touchdown was a trick play, and the second touchdown was going for it on fourth down. Did you see any other chances we had of scoring? I didn't."
As for the two-point conversions, Long was quick to bring up the statistical reasoning behind it and pointed out that other teams frequently go for two, as well. He gave no impression that the strategy will change this week.
"The average, over the last ten years in college football, is on two‑point conversions, it's an almost 59 percent success rate," he said. "So if you go for two points every time, eventually you'll score more points than you do kicking extra points. That's ten years of stats, 58.4, 58.5 percent of the time you're successful on two‑point plays."
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Chris Vannini is a lead writer for CoachingSearch.com and has covered Michigan State sports for The State News, The Oakland Press and MLive.com. He writes a weekly column for the Detroit Free Press on behalf of SB Nation. Vannini lives in Big Ten country, so his foot speed is far from SEC caliber, but his pulse on coaches is hard to match. Be sure to follow @CoachingBuzz on twitter and send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org