2-point conversions

Submitted by Darth Wolverine on November 20th, 2011 at 1:13 AM

Just a quick survey.

Cal just scored a TD at 1:05 AM EST to make it an 8-point game and they went for two to make it a 7-point game. There are 10:53 seconds left in the fourth quarter. They gambled, got the conversion, and it obviously paid off. Just curious what others think. I believe you only go for two when you HAVE to do so. Cal didn't HAVE to go for two, but they did and like I said, it obviously paid off, but if you miss that, you're in the mindset of, "Shit, we still have to score two more times to win this game" where if you take the extra point to keep it an 8-point game, the morale on the team is still good and everyone is thinking "OK, we still only need a TD, but of course we need a 2-point conversion." I have heard Brian on WTKA talk about this and it seems he is in favor of going for two as soon as possible, but I disagree. What does everyone else think?



November 20th, 2011 at 1:18 AM ^

I can see the argument of, try the 2 now so you know what you have to do, but I'm watching the game and was thinking, "you're Cal, extend the game, keep your team into into it, and keep within 1 score." Obviously it worked out, and there are certainly times where I would go for the 2 in that situation, but in this one, kick it!


November 20th, 2011 at 3:12 AM ^

Assuming the probability of making a two point conversion is the same, whether you go for it on your TD with 10 min left or your TD with significantly less time, the question becomes how soon do you want to know the outcome of the 2 pt try.  Game theorists would argue to learn the information as soon as possible.

Take Michigan's game with Iowa.  We scored a TD to get within 9 points with about 6 minutes left on the clock.  Hoke elected to take 1 pt, and Brian argued that a wiser decision would have been to go for 2.

TD 1 occurred with about 6 minutes and TD 2 (should have - Hemmingway!!!) occurred with just seconds left on the clock.  Under the assumption that the likelihood of making the 2 pt conversion is the same for either touch down, the game plays out as follows.

Scenario 1: Go for 2 on TD 1

  • Make it: Tie game! Overtime!
  • Miss it: 6 minutes left to use time outs, onside kick, go for it on 4th down, etc.

Scenario 2: Go for 2 on TD 2

  • Make it: Tie game!  Overtime!
  • Miss it: Seconds left to onside kick, recover, and heave a Hail Mary.

In both cases, making the 2 point conversion earns you overtime.  Where the scenarios differ, is in terms of the odds of winning if the 2 point conversion is missed.  While scenario 1 presents a very low probability of success (lets say 5%), scenario 2 presents a significantly lower chance of success (essentially zero).

While deciding to go for 2 early does not significantly increase your chances of winning, having that information with 6 minutes to go may be worth a few percentage points, and hey, we remember the ND game, so anything is possible.

Hope this made a little sense.


November 20th, 2011 at 1:19 AM ^

If you have momentum and are in that situation, I wouldn't go for 2.  It can screw up the momentum if it's failed.  If you're playing from behind with an outside chance at winning a game you have no business winning, go for it.  Nothing to lose.

Darth Wolverine

November 20th, 2011 at 1:31 AM ^

When you're losing badly and have nothing ELSE to lose, then yes, go for two, but like someone else said, keep it a one-score game, extend the game, and keep the momentum. Missing a two-point conversion and keeping it a two-score game just KILLS morale and momentum. I agree with what the color commentator, Brock (last name escapes me) said, "Keep it a one-score game and only go for two when you have to."


November 20th, 2011 at 1:23 AM ^

It is better to go for it early- I would rather know I need to get two scores with 5 minutes left to go than find out I need an extra score when there is no time left.  The earlier you do it the more you can plan on the possibility of either needing an extra score or just one TD.  I would hate to get a TD, kick the XP, then on my next TD not make the two-point.  Then I have very little time left and can't do much about it.  If I had gone for it earlier than maybe I could have planned my play-calling around it.

PS. This is assuming I am down by 15 in the fourth or some such situation.


November 20th, 2011 at 12:48 PM ^

Well, my problem is that it's not a complete answer.

Let's say that you're down by 15 points with 8 minutes left in the first quarter when you score a touchdown.  Do you go for 2 then?  No.  There are 52 minutes of game time for all sorts of stuff to happen.  You don't need that 2 pointer right then.

I would agree that with 5 minutes left it is probably best to go for 2 on the first touchdown.

Let's say that you're down by 15 points with 30 seconds left in the game when you score the first touchdown.  Do you go for 2 then? At this point it doesn't matter because you don't have time for 2 more scores.  There's an argument to be made for keeping your team's hopes alive by kicking the extra point first.

So, at what point in the game do you need to go for 2 on the first touchdown?


November 20th, 2011 at 1:24 AM ^

Go for 2 only when you have to have it. Never want to be chasing that point and you don't want to kill the momentum that you just got in the score if you don't convert.


November 20th, 2011 at 1:34 AM ^

With close to 11 minutes left in the 4th, I think you go for it.  If you're down by 9 you still have time to make up points.  Assuming you don't convert, you can pull the game back within reach even with a field goal the next time you're on offense and then try an onside kick if need be.  If you kick the extra point then you're less likely to take a chance like that.  You probably push for a TD no matter the situation on your next drive.

EDIT: I put this in the same category as punting inside the 40.  The conventional thing is to kick the field goal.  The smart play is to go for two.

South Bend Wolverine

November 20th, 2011 at 1:52 AM ^

The game theory on this one is really easy.  You need to go for two eventually.  By postponing it, and pretending like an 8 point deficit is a one-possession game, you end up game-planning wrong.  An 8 point deficit is only a one-poss. game ~40% of the time.  You're not more likely to get the conversion later, so what you need to do is collapse the variables so you know what you need.

The whole "extend the game" train of thought is very weird to me.  In reality, it means "pretend like something that's more likely than not a two-poss. game is a one-poss. game to acrue psychological benefits while making bad play-calls because of incomplete information."


November 20th, 2011 at 1:54 AM ^

The whole "extend the game" train of thought is very weird to me.  In reality, it means "pretend like something that's more likely than not a two-poss. game is a one-poss. game to acrue psychological benefits while making bad play-calls because of incomplete information."

I've been trying to figure out how to explain something that's always seemed so obvious to me. You did so better than I ever could. Imaginary +1 to you.


November 20th, 2011 at 2:37 AM ^

On top of everything thats already been said, if you go for the two point conversion when there is still a fair amount of time left, there will be far less pressure on you to get it versus going for it when you absolutely need it to tie with potentially very little time left. In one situation, there's very little pressure and nerves. On the other, there might be enough to radically affect your play.


November 20th, 2011 at 3:23 AM ^

The whole 2 pt conversion argument brings up an interesting discussion that I have been thinking over for some time.  The spread offense in today's college game has changed how teams approach short yardage situations.  In a situation where a team is going for a single attempt PAT, all negative plays (gain less than 2 yards, lost yardage, turnover) hold the same value, and hence the expected value associated with highly negative (i.e. sacks and turnovers) is markedly reduced.  Traditionally, the conversion rate of 2 pt conversions have been between 40-55%, however, I believe the spread is affecting that percentage in favor of the offense.

The question is this, would it be worth while to install a highly emphasized short yardage offense and go for 2 after every touchdown.  It might look silly, or non-conventional, but if you could boost your conversion rate to around 60%, the 1.2 pts per attempt might beat out the .95 earned for an extra point attempt over time.  On a lucky day, it could be worth an extra field goal.


November 20th, 2011 at 10:48 AM ^

The two-point conversion rate has never been above 50%.  It's always been in the low 40s.   Also, I'm skeptical of the notion that spread offenses are doing much to change the 2-point rate, because 1) the lack of room near the goal line negates some of the spread's inherent advantages and 2) teams have been spreading the field horizontally on 2-point attempts for a long time now.  It's always been viewed as a "passing down".


November 20th, 2011 at 8:56 AM ^

I believe there are many other factors then the current score that need to be considered when going for 2. In most cases, go for 2 only when you have to. However, other considerations that should be considered: High scoring or low scoring game, who's dominating at the line, how well does the Offense handle stress, etc.

For instance, in a high scoring game, it may be worth it to go for 2 on every TD as a previous poster suggested.


November 20th, 2011 at 10:28 AM ^

Oregon was down 38-14 and scored a TD with 3:13 to go in the 3rd to cut it to 38-20.  Do you go for two to cut it to 16 and a potential 2-possession game, or do you kick the extra point to make it a 2TD + FG game?  I know Oregon loves to go for two anyway; in this case they tried and didn't get it.  Trying to get three 2-point conversions in a row just to tie seems like a tall task.  It also started this chain of events where they had to go for two again just to catch up to the 2TD + FG scenario they would have had if they just kicked the XP originally.

The next TD they kicked the XP, so they were still down 11, which goes against what we've been saying as far as going for two early so you know what you have to deal with.

The next TD they obviously had to go for it, and managed to get it to cut the lead to 3.  Then the dude blew the FG to lose it.

Personally, I think a lot of teams go for two too early when they are down 8 in the 3rd quarter.  I don't know if I've seen a team down 8 in the 3rd kick the XP to get within one.  I just don't get it.  Do you seriously think there's not going to be any more scoring? Now if you screw up the 2-point, and the other team kicks two FGs, you are back to needing another 2-point instead of just an XP to tie.  It just seems too early to go for it.