How Conservative Is Spaziani In The Kicking Game?

In browsing through the various Boston College football preseason previews, I've been increasingly finding quotes like the one below when discussing BC's kicking game:

Boston College must find a new kicker to replace Steve Aponavicius, whose accuracy (13-of-14 on field-goal attempts last season) made up for his lack of range.

To me, this seems more like a backhanded compliment than anything else.

Now I don't want to pile it on Apona, but I never got the sense that his accuracy made up for anything, really. I probably would have taken an inconsistent kicker who had the ability to put 3 points up on the scoreboard from long range over a kicker that only consistently hits inside of 30 yards. 

I thought the only reason Aponavicius lead the ACC in field goal percentage (92.9 percent) last season was because Spaz finally realized what he had in the Superfan-turned-walk-on kicker and held back from using Apona in otherwise obvious FG situations. I can't really think of any other explanation as to how a career 68 percent field goal kicker - 34-of-50 going into last season - hits 13 of 14 in his senior year.

So did Spaz hold back on using Aponavicius when in field goal range last season? Let's take a closer look.

Aponavicius only attempted 14 field goals last season, down from 21 attempts in his junior year and 18 attempts in his sophomore year. There were five games last season where Aponavicius didn't attempt a field goal - Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Virginia. 

In the Clemson game, BC's offense couldn't get much of anything going. The Eagles average starting field position in the first half was our own 26 yard line, and in nine possessions BC failed to advance the ball into Tiger territory. It wasn't until midway through the third quarter that BC managed to get the ball over the 50 yard line, but that drive fizzled at the Clemson 47. After multiple game stoppages due to lightning, BC punched it in for their only score, capitalizing on an Andre Ellington fumble at the Clemson 13 yard line. Basically, there weren't any times in the Clemson game when BC was in field goal range and Spaz elected to go for it instead of attempt a field goal.

In the third quarter of the Florida State game, Spaz decided to punt on 4th and 10 from the FSU 35. A 51-yard field goal was clearly too far out for Aponavicius, and probably beyond the range of most ACC kickers. That was the only game situation in the FSU game where BC could have attempted a field goal but didn't. 

Much like the Clemson game, the Virginia Tech game wasn't pretty. The Eagles offense again failed to advance past midfield and found themselves in an ugly, 31-0 hole at halftime. Given the halftime deficit, it makes sense that Spaz didn't attempt a field goal in this game.

In the first quarter of the Notre Dame game, BC's offense managed to advance the ball to the Notre Dame 34 before Spaz decided to punt. Again, a 50 yard field goal is well beyond Aponavicius' range (his career long was a 45-yard FG in the 2007 game against Bowling Green). Since 5 of BC's offensive drives stalled by turnovers, that was the only opportunity that BC had to attempt a field goal.

The first half of the Virginia game also didn't afford any opportunities to kick a field goal. The closest BC got to field goal range was a drive that stalled at the UVA 46 late in the fourth quarter with the Eagles clinging to a 4 point lead. 

Finally, in the bowl game against USC, a first quarter BC drive stalled at the USC 41, well outside of FG range. BC doesn't put themselves in a position to kick a FG the rest of the game. The closest the Eagles offense gets is with a pair of drives stalled at the USC 45. 

This was only a recap of the games where Aponavicius didn't attempt a field goal. But looking back at the drive charts for the other eight games, there really weren't many opportunities where BC found themselves in field goal range in a game situation where they should have kicked a FG and instead went for it on fourth down

The sample size is obviously very small, but what I initially thought was Spaz holding back from using Aponavicius due to his limited range really just looks like a fluke season where BC didn't find themselves in a position to kick a field goal.

Basically, the jury is still out on just how conservative or aggressive Spaz will be in the kicking game. For BC's sake though, I really hope that either Ryan Quigley or Nate Freese has more range than Aponavicius did over his four years with the team. With a suspect passing game, points will be at a premium this year, and BC can't afford to pass up opportunities to put points on the board.

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