Sunday, January 3, 2010

ECU and Northwestern Come Close: Time For Small Schools to Recruit Big Kickers

When we reflect on every Bowl season we usually remember the winners of the BCS games, the teams that impressed everyone, and the teams that pulled off the big upsets.

So far this year we'll remember the Tim Tebow-lead Gators team demolishing Cincinnati, Ohio State taking care of Oregon in the Rose Bowl, SMU making their return to relevance on Christmas Eve, and the dominance of the Mountain West.

But we could have remembered ECU beating Arkansas, or Northwestern beating Auburn. Instead the SEC teams held on in overtime in games they probably should have handled.

What Northwestern's loss taught us is to never count out a big conference team in a bowl game. What ECU's loss taught us is that the best of Conference USA were good enough to compete with the mediocrity of the SEC in 2009.

What these two great games really taught us is how important it is to have a reliable kicker at the college level. I don't expect collegiate kickers to be able to go 4/4 with kicks from 41, 38, 29, 35 in the same game; but you have to expect your kicker to go 3/4 from 21, 39, 37, 31.

On Friday Northwestern Kicker Stefan Demos went 0/2 from 48, 44. He also missed an extra point. Demos' struggles were not worth vilifying the kicker for Northwesterns loss, but the Special Teams overall performance deserves the brunt of the blame for the programs inability to get it's first bowl win in 61 years.

The more head shaking kicking performance came Saturday evening in the Liberty Bowl. ECU's kicker Ben Hartman went 1/5; making one from 33, and missing from 45, 39, 39, 35. One of those made field goals would have given ECU the win, instead they cost East Carolina from pulling off one of the bigger upsets of the Bowl Season.

This should be a wake up call for smaller programs. Kickers are hard to come by, but pull out the stops in trying to secure a good one. Recruit deep and nationally to find the best one possible. Use scholarships on these players, because yes, kickers don't deserve praise, but they can also cost you your job.

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