Iowa’s Keith Duncan should have won the Lou Groza Award
I don’t think this would qualify anywhere close to being a hot take: Iowa kicker Keith Duncan got robbed on Thursday night.
Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship won the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation’s top kicker. Duncan was a finalist for the honor, which was announced this week at the The Home Depot College Football Awards Show, and it’s very difficult to understand why he didn’t win it when you look at the numbers.
Duncan made 29 field goals this season, four more than any other kicker and just two short of the single-season record. He may wind up setting it in Iowa’s bowl game against USC. To be fair, Duncan also attempted 34 field goals, three more than any other kicker in the country.
Blankenship, on the other hand, made 25 of his 31 attempts.
In terms of stats, Duncan has the clear edge. When you look past the numbers, though, Duncan has an overwhelming case.
As any Iowa fan knows by now, the Hawkeyes were allergic to scoring touchdowns. They could move the ball down the field pretty well, but had incredible difficulty punching the ball into the end zone. They settled for a field-goal attempt on 42.1 percent of their red-zone trips, the highest rate in the country. That’s how Duncan led the country in attempts and makes.
Without a reliable kicker like Duncan, the Hawkeyes would not have won nine games. Not even close. They were so dependent on him, and in big moments too.
The most recent impression that comes to mind is him nailing the 48-yard game-winning field goal at Nebraska with one second left, after which he blew a kiss at the Nebraska sideline.
Keith Duncan blowin kisses to Scott Frost as he clinches Iowa’s 5th straight win over Nebraska. Let’s party. pic.twitter.com/TPhbGpR8ra
— Austin Bramley (@AustinBramley) November 29, 2019
He also made four field goals in the 18-17 win at Iowa State, somehow staying sharp during a three-hour delay with bad weather. He hit the game-winner from 39 yards with 4:51 left.
Duncan has 14 FGs of 40-plus yards this year. His Iowa State performance alone was one of the best I’ve seen. Every possible early-season weather condition, a FG in every quarter with a 3-hour delay in the middle. Had to adjust because of a puddle on one of them. https://t.co/7djsu6hlpu
— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) December 13, 2019
Duncan was 12 of 13 on field goals in road games this year, routinely showing up in the biggest moments in unfavorable conditions. Just think if Alabama had a kicker like Duncan over the last 10 years. How many more national titles would the Crimson Tide have at this point? That’s a scary thought.
With all due respect to Blankenship, because he’s also a great kicker and he’s an amateur athlete who worked his way to a scholarship, he failed in Georgia’s loss to South Carolina. He went 1 of 3 in that game, including a miss from 42 yards in double overtime to end the game.
— SportSource Analytics (@SportSourceA) December 13, 2019
Sometimes, it’s hard to discern who the more deserving player is for these awards. Jonathan Taylor, for example, is a worthy Heisman Trophy finalist and should have been one, but I can understand why he wasn’t. No one from his position was a finalist — only three running backs have won since 2000 — so it’s hard to compare Taylor to any other candidates. How do you decide the value of Taylor versus a quarterback? It’s not cut and dry.
But in terms of kickers, it’s much easier. One of them made more, kicked at a higher percentage and was insanely clutch. There’s no debating: Keith Duncan should have been the Lou Groza Award winner.