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Original Issue

Phil Taylor's Sidelines


Placekickers are converting extra points at roughly the same rate as they did last season (95.3%). But it seems as though all of the misses have been game-changing, like the three that Oregon State's Alexis Serna (right) blew in the Beavers' opener, allowing LSU to escape with a 22--21 win, or the misfire by Ryan Gaudet that cost LSU in a 10--9 loss to Auburn two weeks later.

Coaches are at a loss to explain why so many crucial PATs have been flubbed, but it's worth noting that many programs have a surprisingly casual attitude toward the kicking game. When New Mexico coach Rocky Long was asked how the Lobos recruit kickers, he said, "We don't. We let it be known that we have a scholarship for [a kicker] and [a] punter. We normally get five or six walk-on kickers to try out and five or six punters." That approach isn't unusual.

Many coaching staffs are also ill-equipped to teach kicking mechanics. Kickers often get their technical advice from private kicking consultants during the summer, and during the season they are essentially on their own. When it comes to placekicking, many teams cross their fingers and hope for the best, which is why it shouldn't be surprising when they don't get it.


There are lots of reasons why once-powerful Washington is 0--4 for the first time since 1969 after losing to Stanford 27--13 last Saturday. Huskies fans would no doubt point to the instability and internal politics that began with coach Rick Neuheisel's firing before last season for his participation in an NCAA tournament pool. But Washington's decline has more to do with misguided recruiting. The Huskies' 2001 class has mostly been a bust.

Neuheisel completed that class a month after Washington's last Rose Bowl appearance, and it was widely considered to be one of the top 10 in the country. But wide receiver Reggie Williams was the only player from the group to make a major impact, and he left after last season for the NFL. As a measure of how disappointing the class has been, Huskies coach Keith Gilbertson played 16 freshmen against Stanford. It's not the mistakes that Neuheisel made with his tournament pool that are hurting the Huskies. It's the ones he made on the recruiting trail.


It's too bad the ticket-takers weren't as busy as the scoreboard operator at San Jose State last Saturday. Only 4,093 were on hand to see the Spartans' 70--63 win over Rice. (The 133 combined points set a Division I record for a nonovertime game.) Down 34--7 in the second quarter, San Jose State stormed back in a wild game that featured 19 touchdowns, 1,089 yards of offense, at least 28 points scored in every quarter and eight players who accounted for 100 or more yards each. The Spartans scored the winning touchdown on a 28yard interception return by safety Brian Nunez--proving once again that you win with defense.