NCAAF Teams
Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer 375d

What's the deal with all the blocked extra points?

College Football, Miami Hurricanes, Florida State Seminoles, Texas Longhorns, Oklahoma State Cowboys, North Carolina Tar Heels, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Old Dominion Monarchs

The play already has a name: The Block at the Rock.

Miami kicker Michael Badgley lined up to attempt a tying extra point late against Florida State, having made 72 in a row. Florida State called for the block. Assistant Odell Haggins wanted his unit to get its biggest push from the left side.

Defensive end DeMarcus Walker felt he could get more push from the right side, so he asked to change the call. Haggins agreed. Miami snapped the ball. It was low and off center, throwing off the timing. Walker pushed and got his hand up.

"You can block it, and it can still go in," Walker said. "I was just hoping it didn't go in there."

The block at Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida gave the Seminoles their seventh straight win in the series, but it also left avid college football observers wondering: "Is this the year of the missed extra point?"

The misses certainly seemed much more prevalent, perhaps because they came in high-profile contests. In Week 1, Notre Dame blocked an extra point attempt against Texas and returned it for a 2-point conversion to send the game into overtime (though the Longhorns eventually won). That same week, Clemson missed an extra point attempt against Auburn that very nearly cost the Tigers in a 19-13 win.

Plenty more followed. Oklahoma State blocked three extra point attempts in a win over Texas in Week 5. Later that day, North Carolina kicker Nick Weiler had an extra point attempt blocked against Florida State that looked as if it would be the difference in the game ... until he booted a winning 54-yarder field goal with 23 seconds left. Then came the Miami miss.

The question had to be asked: Have there actually been more blocked kicks this season, or does it just feel that way because they have come at such crucial moments in crucial games? According to ESPN Stats & Information, FBS kickers are converting 97.1 percent of their extra point attempts so far this year. That's on pace to be the highest percentage since the NCAA started recording the stat in 1958.

What's more, FBS teams have had 24 extra point attempts blocked this year, the fewest through six games since 2007. Only three of those blocks came in the fourth quarter with the score margin within a touchdown (Texas, North Carolina and Miami). Miami is the only team this year to miss an extra point attempt in a game that was determined by one point.

"Maybe people are seeing how an extra point can impact a game or maybe the defenses rush harder when it is late in a game," Weiler said. "It's not a guaranteed make, that's the thing. People look at it that way, but every kick requires the proper operation, snap and hold."

There is one stat that helps explain why these blocked extra point attempts stick out: five have been returned for 2-point conversions, the second-most through six games since 2004. The highest total for a full season is nine, set in 2012.

The plays certainly are unusual to see, so when they are bunched together to start a season, they become more noticeable. Especially since they have involved two of the biggest-name programs in the nation.

Perhaps the only bright spot for Notre Dame this season: The Irish have taken back two blocked extra point attempts for 2-point conversions, which leads the country; the Longhorns have had it done to them twice.

"We work on it," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "We work on scooping, scoring. We don't fall on the ball. You know, we're trying to pick that thing up, so we have one that's assigned to scooping and the other assigned to blocking, and that's how it's worked out in both cases."

Oklahoma State and Texas lead the nation in blocked kicks; the Cowboys returned one of their blocks for a 2-point conversion against the Longhorns. Oklahoma State uses its defensive line starters on field goal teams, and practices blocking field goal attempts live twice a week during practice.

During those special teams drills, linemen are taught to scoop the ball up and try to score. But during regular position drills, they are told to just fall on the ball if they see it on the ground. Conflicting messages, yes, but it goes to the heart of trying to score whenever possible -- even for players who rarely touch the ball.

"We led the nation and were near the top of the nation a couple years ago [in blocked kicks] and we fell back last year, so I think it was more of a challenge for the guys," defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements said. "There's pride in this. We need to get back to blocking kicks. We can't look at it as an opportunity to prevent a score -- it's also an opportunity to score. We challenge the guys to produce. We've had quite a few blocks, but we've had a lot of close ones also. We're inches away from having eight or nine this season."

Texas is also tied with Old Dominion for the national lead (four) in its own kicks being blocked. Special teams problems have been ongoing since last year at Texas, dating to a loss to California when Nick Rose missed an extra point attempt that would have tied the score with 1:11 left. In that case, there was no block. He just missed.

Weiler said he was at a kicking camp this summer with the Texas specialists, and felt for them.

"I reach out to different kickers and punters when I see something like that happen because my career has had its ups and downs," Weiler said. "You know what they're going through. Besides the ones you're playing against, you root for every punter and kicker. You hate to see our position impacted in a bad way."

Old Dominion, meanwhile, has struggled with freshmen kickers learning how to go through their routine just a little bit faster. Special teams coach Charles Bankins wants attempts off between 1.2 and 1.25 seconds. On one blocked extra point attempt that was returned for two, the kick was attempted 1.4 seconds after the snap. The Monarchs have had two blocks returned for two points, though both came in victories.

"I know based on the youth of my guys, there's going to be some growing pains," Bankins said. "It's the first time in my career this has happened. When it happens to you, you feel like it's happening a million times. I've been on the other side where we've returned it and scored and it was the difference in the ball game. I know it can't keep happening because it can cost you the game."

Part of the sell job these coaches have to make to their players is to buy in to blocking for extra point attempts; while on the flip side, attempting to block the extra point and then trying to score. It is an ongoing conversation because extra point conversion rates are so high.

Bankins said on the first extra point attempt that was blocked and returned for two against UMass this season, his players just stopped playing after the ball was kicked because they thought the play was over. "As coaches, we know how important this is, but some of the kids have never seen it before," Bankins said. "They think, 'That's just coach talk.' They know it's important, but at the same time, they think 'That could never happen to us.' You have to drill into your kids every play you have to play to the whistle."

That is precisely why Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher opts to try to go after every kick, whether it is an extra point attempt or a field goal attempt. "You should never take that -- it's a play that has a point involved with it. There's no play in a football game you should never not play," he said.

Weiler said he knew the Seminoles were going to come after his extra point attempt two weeks ago, after the Tar Heels went up 34-28 with 2:40 left. So he rushed the kick and missed his first extra point since Nov. 1, 2014. When he got back to the sideline, coach Larry Fedora told him not to worry. There would be another opportunity to win the game.

He took the field again with the extra point miss out of his mind, and made the game-winner.

The following week, Florida State had its game come down to yet another kick. Only this time, the block worked.

^ Back to Top ^