One thing that has rung true this year in college football is to not let the game come down to your kicker. This has been an ugly year for the position - I cannot recall a year with so many missed or blocked extra-points or so many missed field-goals from under 40 yards. Of course, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Alabama Crimson Tide got the memo about kickers long before everyone else. The reason for this is that the Crimson Tide kicking game contributed greatly to the team’s only loss in the past two seasons, last year’s regular season defeat at the hands of the LSU Tigers.
Like last year, the two kickers for the Crimson Tide are Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley. And like last year, they’re both sharing duty. Neither kicker has been extremely accurate in their multiple seasons with the Crimson Tide, and the loss to the Tigers’ last year was a perfectly example of how these kickers were good when they were on their game, but were average at best the rest of the time.
Last year against the Tigers was a complete nightmare for both Shelley and Foster, and it was their experience that night that helped the Tigers stay in the game and eventually win it.
The trend was set right away for the Crimson Tide’s kicking as Foster missed his first kick of the game on the Crimson Tide’s first drive of the game, that first attempt from 44 yards. Thanks to some poor plays by the Crimson Tide once they got into Tigers’ territory, Foster was forced to attempt a 50-yard kick near the end of the opening quarter. He missed that one too, ending a six-minute drive for the Crimson Tide without points on the board.
Shelley came in for Foster in the second quarter and experienced mixed results. Shelley’s first attempt, from 49 yards, was blocked when the Crimson Tide offensive line did a poor job of avoiding penetration by the Tigers’ line. Shelley did score the first points of the game when he made a 34-yard kick near halftime at the end of another long Crimson Tide drive.
Foster finally came through for the Crimson Tide, making his first field-goal attempt of the second half, that kick from 46 yards. However, that would be forgotten later in the night because of Foster’s miss in overtime.
The Crimson Tide, like with Foster’s 50-yard miss earlier in the game, screwed this situation up themselves. On their only possession of overtime, the Crimson Tide set themselves back right away with a five-yard illegal substitution penalty and then lost five more yards on the following three plays. This set Foster up for a 52-yard attempt, which Foster missed. The Tigers went on to make a field-goal on their overtime possession and won the game.
For the game, Crimson Tide kickers combined to go two-for-six on field-goals, but also scored all six of the team’s points in the game.
For Foster, his second quarter field-goal in this game would be one of only two made kicks last year out of nine attempts. Shelley’s year totaled many more successful kicks with one less missed kick than Foster. Shelley would also get some redemption against the Tigers as his five field-goals in the BCS Championship game built the lead that the Crimson Tide used to pound the Tigers into submission and win last year’s national championship.
The Crimson Tide still are allowing both kickers time on the field, but Shelley has distanced himself from Foster this season somewhat. Shelley is a perfect nine-for-nine on field goals this season, while Foster has made four and missed four. In Foster’s defense, all four of his misses have come from 40 yards or more, but he also hasn’t even attempted a kick from under 40 yards yet this season. On the flip side, Shelley hasn’t even attempted a kick from more than 40 yards yet this season. It appears to be a double-edged sword for Nick Saban as far as who he sends out to kick the ball. If this game is a close one down to the end, the decision of who to send in for a crucial field-goal attempt could be the biggest decision of the game.