In Appreciation of Keith Duncan

By RossWB on October 24, 2019 at 1:30 pm
go keith go
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa's offense has had plenty of struggles this year, but there have been a few bright spots amid the darkness. The receivers have been good. Tyler Goodson has provided some excitement at the running back position. But let's talk about the highest-scoring player on Iowa's team: it's time to give Keith Duncan some love. 

Keith Duncan is having one hell of a season so far. How good is his year? 

He's attempted more field goals than any other kicker this season, with 19 tries. 

FGA - Week 8

He's also made more field goals than any other kicker, with 17 successfully converted kicks. 

FGM - Week 8

That works out to a conversion clip of 89.5%, which is fantastic -- especially given the volume of kicks that Duncan has attempted. Those kicks have been vital for Iowa in a few games, too. He made all four field goal attempts (including the game-winner with under five minutes to go) against Iowa State, all of which which were very necessary in a 1-point game. He made four field goals again this past weekend in another close win over Purdue. 

Duncan hasn't been attempting a lot of chip shots, either. He hasn't attempted any kicks from 50 yards or longer, but over half of his tries (10) have come from 40+ yards and he's consistently made those (9/10). His only miss from 40+ yards was a 44-yard miss in the first half against Penn State. That miss hurt (especially in such a close game), but thankfully misses have been rare for Duncan this year. His only other miss was a hiccup from 39 yards against Middle Tennessee State. 

Obviously, there's a caveat to all this: it's not good that Iowa's offense has attempted more field goals (19) than they've scored touchdowns (18) in seven games. Everyone wants to see the Iowa offense score more touchdowns -- I'm sure even Duncan would prefer to have kicked a few more extra points this season and a few less field goals if it meant Iowa would have had more team success. The lack of touchdowns is a significant problem with the offense, but the fault for that falls mainly on the coaches, the offensive line, and Nate Stanley. None of the blame for that falls on Keith Duncan. His only job is to try and get points for Iowa at the end of a drive, whether that's a field goal or an extra point. And he has done his job very, very, very well.  

Duncan's prolific season also has him on pace to make some Iowa history. He's already made as many field goals as Miguel Recinos had last season (17). He has more field goals already than any Iowa kicker since Daniel Murray made 19 in 2009. The Iowa record for made field goals is 21, which is held by three players: Rob Houghtlin in 1987, Nate Kaeding in 2002, and Kyle Schlicher in 2004. Those three are also the only Iowa players to ever make 20 or more kicks in a season. Kaeding, incidentally, is also the only Iowa player to make 20 or more field goals in two seasons; he had 20 makes in 2003.

In terms of efficiency, though, Kaeding's 2002 season is the only one close to what Duncan has accomplished thus far. Kaeding made 21/24 field goals in 2002, an 87.5% conversion rate. Houghtlin went 21/29 (72.4%) in 1987 and Schlicher made either 21/26 (80.8%) or 21/29 (72.4%) field goals in 2004. (College Football Reference has differing numbers.) Duncan's 2019 season has some definite parallels to Schlicher's 2004 season, in terms of being kickers called on often to score points for an Iowa team with a very stout defense and an offense that had trouble finishing drives in the end zone. And, hey, there would be worse ways to end the season than with a thrilling win in the Capital One Citrus Bowl... 

Hopefully Iowa's offense is able to score more touchdowns in the final five (and hopefully more) games of the season, but when the offense does have to settle for field goals, at least we can be relieved to have such a reliable option available to take those kicks. And if that ends up with Duncan setting some Iowa records -- and getting consideration for All-Big Ten or All-America (and Groza Award) honors -- well, that will be pretty swell, too.  

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