ATHENS — The decision not to allow Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship to attempt what would have been a 60-yard field goal at the end of regulation has led to some second guessing.
Kirby Smart explained how a 5-yard illegal shift penalty led to UGA deciding to attempt a deep pass rather than kick on the final play of regulation.
Blankenship’s career-long field goal is 55 yards. But Blankenship had a 53-yard attempt blocked at the end of the first half in the 20-17 double-overtime loss to South Carolina.
“We thought 38 yard line (55-yard attempt), it was a long, long field goal but it was a shot to make it,” Smart said. “We felt like we had to take one more chance to get five or six yards and we were going to kick it. Thought we could get some more yards back but the penalty obviously killed us.”
Indeed, some thought Georgia was rolling the dice trying another play with six seconds left and no timeouts. The penalty on the play — an incomplete pass — made the decision costly.
“Not only did we get the penalty, but we lost the play,” Smart said. “When you lost the play and you get the penalty, now you’re forced with three seconds left to kick a 60-yarder or try a Hail Mary.”
The illegal shift occurred when Jake Fromm appeared to change the play with just three seconds on the play clock.
Fromm’s audible or route change triggered a shift from receivers George Pickens and Demetris Robertson. One stepped up on the line of scrimmage, one took a step back.
The receivers, however, did not shift quickly enough to be set for one second. That led to the 5-yard penalty that Smart felt took Blankenship out of range.
Blankenship said he trusted his coach’s decision and understood the concern a 60-yard attempt would have created.
Rodrigo Blankenship says he wanted the chance to kick the ball at the end of regulation. pic.twitter.com/g6XAj9r3tL
— 960 The Ref (@960theref) October 12, 2019
“When we had it at the 38-yard line, that was going to be in range,” Blankenship said. “But the penalty pushed us back, and I think with them blocking one earlier, we really didn’t want to risk that again.
“I trust coach Smart, and he trusts me. I think he would have given me that chance from 55 yards. I’m already ready, I’m ready for anything.”