IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — It was a split-second decision that reignited a classic debate in college football: Does icing the kicker actually work?
Last Saturday, Iowa State was on Iowa’s 24-yard line with 2 seconds left and the game tied at 17. Cyclones sophomore kicker Cole Netten was about to attempt the biggest kick of his life for a road team desperate to end a two-game skid. Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz used his final timeout, presumably to give Netten a moment to let all that sink in.
Netten kicked it anyway. He hooked it left.
Iowa’s timeout gave Netten another shot at the same kick. It went right down the middle, giving Iowa State a 20-17 victory over their hated rivals.
“That’s one thing I haven’t stayed up late thinking about. It hasn’t woken me up,” said Ferentz, who called the concept of icing a kicker a “50-50 thing” after the game.
Ferentz is right: The numbers suggests that when it matters most, a timeout really doesn’t matter.
Since 2012, there have been 110 instances in the Bowl Subdivision where a team attempted a field goal in the final 2 minutes of the fourth quarter either trailing by 3 or tied, according to research by STATS.
Opponents iced the kicker 50 times. The ensuing field goal went through 72 percent of the time.
Opponents left the kicker alone 60 times. The conversion rate was 73.3 percent.
For many coaches, there isn’t a general rule of thumb in such situations.
“I’ve done it a few times. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson said he’ll occasionally use a timeout to make sure his players understand their blocking schemes and are alert for possible fakes. Clawson added that if the opponent seems to be rushing things, it doesn’t make sense to stop and let them breathe.
Syracuse coach Scott Shafer called icing “overrated.”
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn knows how underrated it can be. He iced Alabama’s Adam Griffith before his 57-yard attempt in last year’s Iron Bowl simply because Griffith was replacing the Tide’s normal kicker.
But it also gave the Tigers a moment to realize that putting the explosive Chris Davis in the end zone wasn’t such a bad idea.
“We had time to think about the thing,” Malzahn said.
And 109 yards later, Davis was in the opposite end zone following one of the most memorable plays in college football history.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was watching the Iowa-Iowa State game live. He agreed with Ferentz’s decision. But Rodriguez also cautioned that “sometimes when you give him time to focus…he’ll make it the second time.”
That’s exactly what happened to Netten. He said the brief breather gave him time to “regain his focus.”
Even Ferentz has been on both sides of the debate.
Ferentz was an assistant at Iowa in 1985 when No. 2 Michigan called timeout ahead of Rob Houghtlin’s 29-yard try with 2 seconds left and the top-ranked Hawkeyes down 10-9. It didn’t work then either.
Houghtlin nailed it — from the same end of Kinnick Stadium but 13 yards closer than Netten was — to give Iowa a huge win.
“Probably should go back to ’85. Didn’t work in ’85. Should probably just hang my hat on that one,” Ferentz said.
AP Sports Writers John Marshall, John Zenor and Aaron Beard contributed to this report.
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