Assignment 6: Billy Bennet’s Left Leg: An
Investigation with Angles and Kickers

By: David Drew

EMAT 6680, J. Wilson

College Football is the most storied and beloved sport that
students and alumni rally behind with rabid ferocity. There is excitement,
pain, joy, and humiliation, and that’s just within the kicking game. Our

Billy has just recently been hailed the leading scorer in
SEC football history. His 392 career points are the tops in our conference
history and fifth in the NCAA Division I-A history books. His 106 career
attempts is the most in NCAA I-A history and he has 27 made this season, which
ties him for an SEC mark with most field goals made in a single season.

After so many attempts and made field goals one might
consider Billy the greatest kicker in UGA history. It also makes you wonder if
there was some secret behind his left leg. Or was there something in the
position on the field that he kicked from?

Here’s an excerpt from an *Introduction to American
College Football Rules*. “**The Field** is 100 yards long (and 160 feet
wide). The middle of the field is the 50 yard line. The lines are labeled every
10 yards descending in both directions from the 50 yard line. Thus there are
two 40 yard lines and no 60 yard line. Each team owns half of the field (they
switch sides every 15 minutes of play). Thus, the two 40 yard lines are
distinguished by who owns them. The "zero yard line" is called the *goal
line.* The areas to either side of those 100 yards, extending 10 yards past
the goal lines, are called the *end zones.* Teams try to get the ball past
the opponent's goal line into the end zone to score a *touchdown.* At far
edge of each end zone are the *goal posts* which, together with the cross
bar, look like a big H. These are used only when a team decides to kick a *field
goal* instead of going for a touchdown or to kick for an *extra point*
after scoring a touchdown. To score the field goal or extra point, the ball
must go between the vertical posts and over the bar. The dimensions of these
two posts are now 18.5 feet wide, which was 5 feet more narrow than before. In
the other direction, the field is divided into three parts, left, center and
right, by the *hash marks*, which are 60 feet from each *side line*.
Normally, for each play, the ball starts where it ended up at the end of the
previous play. However, if the ball ends up outside of the center part of the
field, it is brought back to the nearest hash marks so plays never start at the
extreme sides of the field. The area to either side of the field is *out-of-bounds.*”
Click here to find more. http://www.cae.wisc.edu/~dwilson/rsfc/intro/

Those are some interesting fact and I’ll guarantee
that even the most avid football fan didn’t know the dimensions of the whole
field. But what is important in this discussion is where the hash marks are in
relation to the field goal post. I want to ask the question: ‘Is there any
proof in the fact that if you team is close to the goal line and willing to
kick a field goal should they take a penalty to move the ball back in order to
get a better angle?’ Some people believe that you should in fact let the play
clock run out so you can receive a penalty, thus moving your team back five
yards to help the kicker.

With the help of GSP I was able to create a field,
goal post, and hash marks to help me explore this dilemma. Here’s the finished
product.

As you can tell we have a regulation
field with Billy ready to kick away. So can we find an angle made from one goal
post to Billy to the other goal post that maximizes our chances of hitting a
field goal? For those of you with GSP you can click on Billy
to show you the secret of the field goal myth. For everyone else I’ll give a
quick overview.

At the 10 yard line the angle is 15.84
degrees, at the 20 it’s 11.19 degrees. So we can see it’s going down from those
two points. At the 50 it’s 5.81 degrees which is much less that the two
previous spots. So where does it maximize? The answer is where the kicker can
never go. The angle is maximized inside the end zone roughly 6 yards inside. So
the myth of taking a penalty to improve your position on the kicking field is
in fact just a myth. It’s better to stay where you are than take a penalty.

If you’re interested, click on the Post
link to go a funny demonstration on how to tear down a goal post.

Write Up by David Drew