Assignment 6: Billy Bennetís 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 thatís just within the kicking game. Our University of Georgia has an outstanding kicker in Billy Bennett, number 30 and this is a tribute to his consistency over the last four years.

††††††††† 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?


Hereís an excerpt from an Introduction to American College Football Rules. ďThe 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.Ē Click here to find more.

Those are some interesting fact and Iíll guarantee that even the most avid football fan didnít 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: ĎIs 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?í 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. Hereís 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 Iíll give a quick overview.

††††††††† At the 10 yard line the angle is 15.84 degrees, at the 20 itís 11.19 degrees. So we can see itís going down from those two points. At the 50 itís 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. Itís better to stay where you are than take a penalty.



††††††††† If youíre interested, click on the Post link to go a funny demonstration on how to tear down a goal post.



††††††††† Write Up by David Drew

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