COMMENTARY: It's not always the kicker's fault,
By Ashley Burns Central Florida Future

Oviedo, FL (CSTV U-WIRE) -- With the college football bowl season finally over and done with, I started thinking back to something Bill Simmons - my Buddha of sports writing - once pondered about the NFL.

He once asked why, in a league of 32 teams and with countless amateur football and soccer players around the world, every team can't find one quality kicker to put the ball through the uprights on a consistent basis?

It's a good question. It carries plenty of validity, and there really should be some sort of logical answer. But I want to go one step beyond the NFL - or below it, rather. Why is it so seemingly impossible for major college football programs to find quality kickers?

I'm not talking about the directional Michigan schools or some Podunk trade school - cough, FIU, cough - that thought it was a good idea to start a football program. I'm talking about big-time schools with big-time tradition, big-time coaches and big-time recruiting.

How is it that this year's Orange Bowl came down to a field goal contest with two opposing kickers doing their best Christopher Reeve impersonations? FSU and Penn State kickers combined to make two field goals in six attempts. Put a blindfold on a midget with a peg leg and chances are he'll hit one out of three.

I'm not saying I think the kickers have it easy. It's a tough job. However, I'll compare it to a conversation my dad and I once had. NBA players are paid a lot of money to be good at their jobs, yet so many of them hit fans better than they hit free throws. If an athlete is making millions, then he should be able to hit a free throw. In the case of kickers, if a guy has a full ride to put a ball through those big yellow posts, then he better darn well do it.

That doesn't mean that I expect every single 50-plus yard field goal to be perfect. I would think, though, that any kicker for a quality program should at least be able to hit 100 percent of his extra-point attempts.

FSU kicker Gary Cismesia missed a key extra point early in Tuesday night's game. It reminded me of this game I watched on Christmas Eve, when a kicker also missed a costly extra point. I can't remember what game or which kicker or which bad snap, though, as a steady diet of Drano and lithium has helped me forget that four-hour block of my life.

Adam Sandler once sang of the kicking profession, "And I hope that the cameras don't come in too close, 'cause they might see the tears in my eyes. As I sit on this bench made of cold-hearted wood and the splinters go deep in my thighs and the towel boy snickers as he walks by ... the Lonesome Kicker."

To all the extra-point, chip shot-missing kickers of the world, I say cheer up and keep the laces out with this NCAA bowl game tirade ...

The aforementioned Fed Ex Orange Bowl was won in triple overtime by Penn State. The Lions' win was Joe Paterno's 21st bowl victory as a head coach; unfortunately, he had no clue where he was. With two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Paterno and Bobby Bowden were spotted playing Mahjong on the sidelines.

When asked about his two-game lead over Bowden for all-time bowl victories, Paterno asked when Matlock was on and then took a nap. Residents of Coral Gables later dumped a cooler of prune juice on Paterno ...

Arguably the most exciting finish to any of this year's bowl games was the MasterCard Alamo Bowl, which featured Michigan and Nebraska. The Cornhuskers edged the Wolverines 32-28, but Michigan took a chance with a wacky lateral play as the clock expired.

The game ended in controversy because Nebraska players rushed the field before any Michigan player had been tackled and no flag was thrown because of it.

But I think the more important question is this: Does anyone remember when these programs were respectable? Two more seasons of above-average results, and they can change their names to the Miami Hurricanes ...

Speaking of the Miami Hurricanes, what is orange and green, black and blue and walks like it was just penetrated by a sideways Wiffle Ball bat? Ladies and gentlemen, the Hurricanes' defensive line! The 'Canes allowed 272 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in a humiliating 40-3 loss in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. If Miami had any real fans, I'm sure they'd be upset ...

FSU lost. Miami lost. UCF lost. USF lost and scored zero points for the first time in school history. That leaves the Florida Gators as the only Sunshine State school to secure a bowl win this year. I guess one out of five isn't bad ... if you're a Penn State kicker.

But it's a good sign for the Gators since they have a decent shot of finishing in at least the Top 5 next season. That'll make for an exciting game in The Swamp when the Knights visit next season.

George O'Leary against Urban Meyer. Steven Moffett against Chris Leak. Kevin Smith against Kestahn Moore. Joe Burnett against anyone. Should be exciting as long as we go for two ...

Conference USA football finished .500 this bowl season. Memphis, Tulsa and Southern Miss picked up wins, while UCF had the only exciting loss among the three losing teams. Houston and UTEP suffered horrendous beatings, undoubtedly upsetting the seven viewers who left their televisions on during those games ...

Finally, college football bowl season obviously boils down to whichever team wins the National Championship. But I didn't even feel like that was the point this year. It doesn't matter which team won the Rose Bowl last night.

For every analyst and reporter covering college football, it has all been about Reggie Bush. We get it already. The guy is a stud. He's borderline unstoppable. He very well could end up one of the greatest collegiate and professional running backs of all time.

But be forewarned all ye who dost proclaim Bush's perfection. I have two words for ye: Ki-Jana Carter. Suckle on that teat of knowledge, and I'll see you at draft time.

(C) 2006 Central Florida Future via CSTV U-WIRE

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