Why Penn should have gone for it


I happen to think that Penn coach Al Bagnoli usually does a good job deciding when to go for it on fourth down and when not to. For example, on fourth and five from the Yale 25-yard line late in the fourth quarter of a tie game on Saturday, I was totally behind the coach's decision to try a pass (which ultimately was incomplete).

But in OT, faced with a similar position, albeit six yards closer, Bagnoli trotted out Derek Zoch to try a field goal, which hit the right upright and bounded away, leaving Yale only needing to hit a field goal to win the game, which it did.

Here's my issue -- In his career, Zoch is 4-of-11 on kicks of 37 yards or more (which is where he kicked the unsuccessful try from on Saturday). That's a .364 percentage. Penn had a 4th and 4, which I think the Quakers at least have a better chance of making than 36 percent. In that game alone, Penn was 3-for-4 on 3rd and 3 or 3rd and 4, passing all four times.

In addition, the Quakers averaged 4.8 yards per play in the game. They were having a great deal of success with short passes towards the end of the fourth quarter. Would I have passed on 3rd and 5 the previous play? Yes, but I would have been willing to run if I was committed to go for it on 4th down.

And would the four yards have helped Zoch, even if the Quakers had failed to advance the ball any further then the 15-yard line? I would say yes. In his career, Zoch is 10-for-16 on kicks from 33 yards or less, which is where he would have been kicking from.

The last aspect of Bagnoli's decision that I didn't like is that Yale's Alan Kimball has a big leg, and could make a 42-yard field goal, even if the Quakers defense did not allow a yard. On the season, Kimball is 2-for-3 on kicks of at least 40 yards, including a 48-yarder earlier in the year.

Finally, Zoch was visibly upset when Bagnoli didn't attempt the 42-yarder late in the fourth. At least he could have made a statement with a made kick in overtime.

Unfortunately for Penn, Bagnoli's strategy and Zoch's anger didn't pay off.

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