Onside kicks are already a big roll of the dice. It’s one of those plays that exists as a last-ditch effort to turn what should be a loss into what might be a miracle comeback.
On Sunday, in need of a touchdown with not much time to get one, South Carolina decided to take its chance at an onside kick after a touchdown made it a one-score game. The result wasn’t as planned. The ball ended up in the hands of one of Georgia’s fastest players who not only recovered the onside kick, but took it back for a touchdown and effectively ended any hope of a comeback for the Gamecocks.
So was this just bad luck, or was it a bad design? Let’s take a look.
South Carolina lines up with a split team, meaning they have enough players lined up on either side of the kicker for the ball to be kicked either left or right. The point of this is to instill confusion on the receiving team.
I already didn’t like the set up from that alone. An onside kick is already wacky enough. It already heavily favors the receiving team by forcing the ball to go 10 yards, plus if the ball goes out of bounds it is also unsuccessful. With that in mind, I’m a strong proponent of creating chaos — not space — in an onside- kick situation. I would put as many players as I could to one side, hope the ball gets a bounce, and let the clutter around it make the situation more of a 50/50 than an 80/20 like it is with fewer players.
Let’s watch how it played out with that split formation.
This touchdown (or, at least, the recovery part) was way too easy for Georgia. South Carolina kicked it to a side where there were only four players, none of whom went after the ball, and tried to emphasize the player closest to the kicker as the main retriever — as if he could get there fast enough. Not to mention the ball didn’t even go 10 yards.
It was a poor design that had little chance of working, even if the ball was kicked perfectly. Kicking teams have a better chance of recovering onside kicks if they bounce the ball up high and try to create as much chaos as possible. Remember, if the receiving team touches it, it’s live regardless of how far it travels. It doesn’t make sense to make it easier for the receiving team to secure it with more open space. This one was poorly thought out.