Brian Kelly opens up on his decisions to go for it on fourth down

On3 imageby:Chandler Vessels09/19/23


Brian Kelly previews LSU vs. Arkansas

LSU coach Brian Kelly hasn’t shied away from going for it on fourth down early this season. The Tigers have already done so eight times in the first three games, converting half of those attempts.

LSU went for it twice on four down in Week 3’s win against Mississippi State and was successful both times. That included an attempt on fourth-and-7 from the Bulldog 33-yard line that resulted in a touchdown pass from Jayden Daniels to Malik Nabers in the first quarter.

Asked whether the clock rule changes this season have played a factor in his willingness to take chances on fourth down, Kelly opened up on his philosophy. He explained how the use of analytics has changed the way he approaches those decisions.

“I use a combination of good sense and what the game feels like,” the coach said. “We use analytics, so I’m plugged in to what the analytics are telling me relative to fourth down. Most of the analytics are much more aggressive than we are as we watch the game. Fourth-and-two or three used to be considering a field goal inside the 10. Now it’s almost 100% go for it.”

Brian Kelly isn’t the only coach who has been more aggressive on fourth down this season. Ten teams have gone for it 10 or more times, with South Florida leading the way with 15 fourth-down conversion attempts. Army has had the most success of any team in the country as it earned a first down on all 10 of its tries.

Kelly went on to say that having a quarterback like Daniels also plays a factor. Because Daniels is equally dangerous with his legs as he is as a passer, it can keep the defense on its toes and lead to a higher chance of keeping the drive alive.

“I think it’s a combination of getting a sense and a feel for the game and how you feel like you might have control or not control of the game plus the use of analytics,” Kelly said. “Then when you have a quarterback that is multi-dimensional, it really puts the defense in a bind. So I think we have those three factors working for us when we get the fourth-down calls.”

LSU struggled on fourth down in the opening week against Florida State as it failed all three of its fourth down attempts. In the two games since then, however, it has converted 80% of the time.

The Tigers will hope that trend continues as they enter a pivotal SEC matchup against Arkansas at 6 p.m. CT on Saturday in Baton Rouge.