Scared money don’t make money. Billy Napier has lived by his catchphrase in 2022. Through four games the Gators are 8 for 11 on 4th down conversions. Six of those attempts came in the Tennessee game alone; Gators converted five.
We saw Billy Napier stand in the paint when asked about his 4th down conversion attempts late in the Kentucky game.
“At that point in the game, you got to be aggressive,” Napier said. “You think about where you are on the field, four minutes left in the game. You are only going to get so many opportunities to get it back. They were chewing it up pretty good. No question, that was the right decision.”
Two weeks later we watched the most aggressive gameplan from Napier yet. Not only did he attempt six fourth downs, but he decided to go for a two-point conversion down 11 points.
“All you’re trying to do is declare the path early in the game,” Napier said. “ So you go for two there. If you get it, you’re at 9, and now you’re in a position to win the game with an extra point whereas, if you don’t get it now, you still have two scores with an additional opportunity to go for two.
Like it or not, Napier is a head coach that’s going to use analytics to his benefit. If he knows he can increase the Gators chances to win by going for it on fourth down or a two-point conversion, he’s going to do it.
“There’s two avenues, when you really dig into the numbers, about the approach there. First of all, you start talking about playing for a tie, right? When you’re on the road, there’s a slight advantage for the home team in overtime, and there’s certainly a bigger advantage when you’re a two-score favorite. I think it’s around 63 percent advantage if you’re the home team playing overtime, and you’re a two-score favorite. So that goes into your decision-making,” Napier said.
“If you kick it, ultimately, the numbers are going to tell you to go for two at the end of the game anyway to win the game. So you’re just declaring the path quicker, and that gives you a chance to adjust your strategy the rest of the game,” Napier said.
Napier was ultra-aggressive against Tennessee because he knew his defense wasn’t going to get a stop.
“Your job as coaches is to help come up with a strategy for the team to put your team in position to win,” Napier said. “We knew going into it part of the way you win that game is you’ve got to control possession of the ball. You’ve got to keep their offense off the field.”
“The play count on their end, on offense, can get high in a hurry, and that affects your defense,” Napier said. “ So one of the ways to combat that is to stay on the field on offense. And you know going in, based off of history, that you’re going to have to score. So there’s a little more aggressive approach, and from the first possession on, we took that approach.”
Even if you aren’t someone that looks too much into the numbers, I think it’s fair to say that the Gators chances of winning in OT were not in Florida’s favor. Although Florida’s offense did a decent job of keeping pace, it took a ton of risk and an incredible effort by Anthony Richardson. Tennessee was running the ball more effectively and had an overall better offensive flow.
If the Gators had executed on their two-point conversion, Napier is being praised by all of college football right now. I appreciate that Napier had a gameplan and that he stuck to it.
Napier’s gameplan to be aggressive was the only reason the Gators were in a position to win the game in the first place. If Napier had chosen to punt or kick field goals on a few of those 4th downs, the Gators would have lost by a lot more than five points.
We’ve seen Napier be aggressive all season long and it’s going to continue while he’s the head coach of the Florida Gators.