When you set the Big Ten record for most field goals made in a season -- with two entire games to spare -- you'd damn well better be named the Big Ten Kicker of the Year. On Tuesday the league made it official: Keith Duncan is the Bakken-Anderson Kicker of the Year for 2019.
Duncan is the first Iowa player to win the Big Ten Kicker of the Year Award -- mainly because the award didn't exist until 2011. (Given some of the good kickers that Iowa has had over the years -- Rob Houghtlin, Nate Kaeding, Kyle Schlicher -- it's very likely that Iowa would have won this award a few times previously had it existed.)
The Iowa all-time record for most field goals made in a season was 21 when the 2019 season kicked off. That record was jointly held by Kyle Schlicher (2004), Nate Kaeding (2002), and the great Rob Houghtlin (1987). Duncan surpassed that mark with this third made field goal against Wisconsin -- in Iowa's ninth game of the season.
The Big Ten record for made fields when the season began was 25, jointly held by Michigan's Remy Hamilton (1994), Minnesota's Dan Nystrom (2000), Ohio State's Mike Nugent (2002), and Purdue's Ben Jones (2003). Those men are now all looking up at Keith Duncan. Duncan made his 25th field goal of the season as time expired on the first half against Illinois Iowa's 11th game of the season. He set the record with his 26th field goal of the season, which arrived right as the fourth quarter began against Illinois.
Since then he's just been padding his record -- and chasing the NCAA's all-time record (31, achieved by Georgia's Billy Bennett in 2003). Oh, and breaking Nebraska hearts and trolling Nebraska coaches.
KEITH DUNCAN BLOWIN KISSES. IOWA 27, NEBRASKA 24 pic.twitter.com/1LxEGOUyqG— Go Iowa Awesome (@IowaAwesome) November 29, 2019
Which might be his greatest accomplishment, if we're being honest with ourselves.
Duncan has been the alpha and omega of Iowa's offense for pretty much the entire season. His season -- and his role on this team -- has been reminiscent of one of the Iowa players whose single season record he snapped, Kyle Schlicher in 2004. Like Duncan, Schlicher played on a team with a defense that was nails and expert at keeping the opposing team out of the end zone. Like Duncan, Schlicher also played on an offense that struggled to run the ball -- and score points. Points were at a premium for both the 2004 and 2019 offenses and in both cases their ability to succeed -- and win close games -- came down to a reliable field goal kicker. Just as Schlicher ably filled that role in 2004, Duncan has done the same in 2019.
Without Duncan and his impressively reliable right leg, there's no absolutely no way Iowa wins nine games this year. Duncan's kicked the game-winning field goal with just under five minutes to play against Iowa State. His kicks kept Iowa in the game against Purdue (3/3 in the first half) until the offense decided the end zone wasn't full of lava in the second half. His fourth quarter field goal against Minnesota ended up being the winning score in Iowa's victory over the Gophers. And, of course, his game-winning field goal drove a dagger into Nebraska's season just last week.
He didn't just convert chip shots, either. He made 14 of 18 tries from 40+ yards. He made kicks in countless pressure-packed situations and in hostile environments. And he made kicks in sub-optimal conditions, while dealing with wet and windy weather (Nebraska) or poor field conditions (Iowa State).
Duncan has 29 made field goals on the season at present. He made nine more field goals than the kicker with the second-most made field goals (Michigan State's Matt Coghlin, with 20) and attempted five more than the kicker with second-most field goal tries (also Coghlin, with 34). Not only was Keith Duncan the best kicker in the Big Ten this season; you can make a strong case that he put together the greatest kicking season in the history of the Big Ten conference. He's been that good.
Congratulations, Keith, on being named the Big Ten Kicker of the Year for 2019. That honor is richly deserved.
P.S. #VoteDuncan for the Lou Groza Award, too!