the study of the kicking components within sports

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pennsylvania Kicking Innovator

Most Quaker fans remember coach George Woodruff for making the University of Pennsylvania elevens a dominant football powerhouse in the 90's. Kickology fans remember Woodruff for his innovative use of kicking. John H. Minds, a tackle for the '94-'97 squads, remembered things as follows:
"The team was quite strong in the kicking department and used the punt as part of its regular running offensive plays. It kicked from the running formation, as often on first down as on any other down. It was a low, long hard to a spot difficult for the defense to reach, and dangerous to handle if reached. It was effective an made much ground. One first-down kick against Harvard, made in the northeast corner of Franklin Field, cleared Harvard's secondary defense and went out of bounds inside the five yard line in the southwestern corner of the field. It changed the complexion of the game."
The following headline appeared in the New york Times during October 1901: Pennsylvania's Coach Has Invented a New Form of Kick-Off.
"He is responsible for an introduction which promises to revolutionize the kickoff. The ball is placed horizontal with the goal posts. Instead of kicking the ball as far into the opponent's territory as possible, care was taken to have it go just beyond the ten yards required by rule. The ball was placed on the mark denoting the center of the field, parallel with the line instead of at right angles, one end being raised slightly higher than the other.

By thus placing the ball and kicking on either end it would produce a revolving motion and shoot off to the opposite side to which it was kicked. With the side kicking off having all its players on a line with the ball, the chances highly favor the team getting the ball again if it just goes within the ten yard limit.

This is true for two reasons. First, because it is much easier to fall on a ball while running with its motion than to attempt to gain its possession by meeting it in an opposite direction, and second, the side kicking off has all its men on a line with the ball. This is quite a unique play, and should be worked with success a few times in each game."
The onside kick is still used today, although not several times every game. It occurs either late in the game when a team that scores is still trailing or as a rare surprise, such as to open the second half of the Super Bowl. Even rarer today is another Woodruff innovation - the "quarterback kick". Its descendant, the "pooch punt", was occasionally used by quarterback John Elway. Woodruff's original version entailed the quarterback kicking the ball over the surprised opposing line and watching one of his team mates recover the ball. Back in the day, a punted ball was still live and could be recovered by the kicking team, regardless of whether the ball was touched by the defense. While quarterbacks occasionally got in on the kicking, the running backs were the ones who most often used their feet. The stats summary from a 1901 game between Pennsylvania and Hardard illustrates the role of offensive kicking at that time:
In the first half Harvard rushed 54 times gaining 299 yards, and Pennsylvania 21 times for 39 yards. Harvard kicked 6 times for 225 yards, and Pennsylvania 6 times for 205 yards. In running back kicks Harvard gained 103 yards and Pennsylvania 88. Harvard was forced to punt 4 times and Pennsylvania 6 times. On fumbles Harvard lost the ball twice and Pennsylvania once. Ristine made the longest run of the game, 41 yards; and Putnam made the longest kick, from behind the goal line to the middle of the field.

In the second half Harvard rushed 51 times for 205 yards and kicked twice for 52 yards. Pennsylvania rushed 16 times for 28 yards, gained 18 yards on a quarterback kick, and kicked 5 times for 142 yards. Harvard gained 34 yards and Pennsylvania 17 by running back kicks. Harvard was forced to kick 3 times and held for downs once. Pennsylvania was forced to kick 6 times. Harvard secured the ball twice on fumbles and once on a blocked kick. Pennsylvania lost 40 yards and Harvard 10 on off-side plays and interference.

In the whole game Harvard rushed 105 times for 504 yards, and Pennsylvania 38 times for 83 yards. Harvard kicked 8 times for 277 yards, and Pennsylvania 11 times for 347 yards. In running back kicks Harvard gained 137 yards and Pennsylvania 105 yards.

No comments:

Post a Comment