Erik Powell was one of the more consistent kickers in the country last year. The same is true in 2016, but for much different reasons.
The Washington State junior is one of 11 FBS kickers who have attempted every PAT and every field goal for his team. He's delivered the same result for each PAT, and the same result for each of his field goals.
The problem is, while Powell has converted all 31 PATs, he has misfired on all five field goal attempts, making Washington State the only FBS team without a made field goal on the season. In fact, the Vancouver, Wash., native is so consistent that he's gone 0-for-1 in each of his team's five games.
The Cougars, who sit 3-2 amidst a three-game winning streak, dropped both of their first two games by three points each, and as mentioned, Powell has missed one field goal in each game. He misfired on a 38-yarder in a season-opening loss to Eastern Washington and had a 39-yard attempt blocked against Boise State in Week 2. Although there is shared blame on some blocked field goals (Luke Falk took a seven-yard sack on third down to lengthen the would-be blocked attempt) it still goes down as a miss, and one that proved to be game-altering.
During the field goal drought, there haven't been many opportunities for Powell, who hit 20-of-26 FG attempts and all 49 of his PATs in 2015. Yes, he has missed all his attempts so far, but the measly five tries rank 102nd nationally. Only 14 FBS teams have attempted fewer than five field goals.
Here are all the reasonable opportunities for a field goal through five games and the results:
vs Eastern Washington (45-42 L)
- Down 38-28, Powell misfired on 38-yard attempt with 10:19 remaining in the fourth quarter. (0 points)
at Boise State (31-28 L)
- Luke Falk threw a first-quarter pick-six on third down at the Boise State 23-yard line. (0 points)
- In the second quarter, Powell had a 39-yard attempt blocked. (0 points)
- Down 24-7 in the third quarter, Mike Leach went for it on fourth-and-short from the Boise State 13-yard line and did not convert. (0 points)
- Still down 17 points (31-14), Leach opted for another fourth-down try, this time with six yards to go on the Boise State 14-yard line. They scored a touchdown on the play. (7 points)
vs Idaho (56-6 W)
- Powell missed a 43-yard attempt in the second quarter of the blowout win. (0 points)
- In the third quarter, Washington State converted a fourth-and-two from the Idaho 34-yard line thanks to a defensive holding call. The drive resulted in a touchdown. (7 points)
- The Cougars converted another fourth down, this time with eight yards to go at the Idaho 35-yard line. The drive resulted in a score. (7 points)
vs Oregon (51-33 W)
- Tied 7-7, they picked up six yards on 4th-and-3 from the Oregon 10-yard line, and later scored on the drive. (7 points)
- Powell's 22-yard attempt in the third quarter was blocked. (0 points)
- Up 28-14 later in the third, Washington State failed on a 4th-and-goal try from the Oregon three-yard line. (0 points)
at Stanford (42-16 W)
- Ahead 7-3 in the second quarter, the Cougars scored a touchdown on fourth and seven from the Stanford 29-yard line. (7 points)
- Powell missed wide left on a 35-yard attempt in the second. (0 points)
- Up 14-3 early in the third, they converted on fourth and one at the Stanford six-yard line. They would score a touchdown on the drive (7 points)
So as you can see, the Cougars' offense has stalled in field goal range 14 times this season. Five of those drives ended in missed or blocked field goals, three ended in turnovers, and the other six resulted in touchdowns – for a grand total of 42 points. Remarkably, if the Cougs had attempted and made a field goal on every one of those drives, they would have netted 42 points.
As things stand, the Cougars are flirting with history. Over the past ten years, only nine FBS teams have made fewer than five field goals in a season, and only six have made fewer than three. Wyoming is the most recent field-goal-challenged team, converting just two of eight attempts while winning two games in 2015.
Of those nine FBS teams with less than five goals in a season, only Air Force reached a bowl game. They finished with a 6-7 record after going 2-for-5 on field goals. Kent State (6-6, 2-for-10) is the only other team to reach six wins. The combined record of all nine teams is 28-74, making Washington State's season all the more remarkable. The Cougars are 3-2 despite kicking zero field goals and appear primed for a third bowl appearance in four years.
Whether or not their kicking ineptitude harms them again remains to be seen. But for now, it appears Leach's fourth-down shots are working, among other things.