the study of the kicking components within sports

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NFL Week 12: Almost, Again, and Many

On Thanksgiving Day, Cowboys kicker David Buehler had the distance on a 59 yarder with 31 seconds remaining that would have tied the game against the Saints. But the attempt went wide to the left.
"I was pretty confident it was good. I hit it well, struck well, gave it the distance, but it drew out at the last second. That sucks man. I thought I made it and was confident it was going in, but it just drew out....
It sucks. This sucks. Put yourself in my shoes – you know how I’m feeling."
For the Falcons, kicker Matt Bryant hit yet another game winner this year. This time it was a 47 yarder with 9 seconds remaining to give Atlanta a 20-17 win over Green Bay.
"Pressure is what you feel when you're not prepared. I've been preparing for that since I was 6 years old. Was there a little bit of pressure? Yeah. But I was prepared."
In Buffalo, Bills kicker Rian Lindell made a 49 yard field with two seconds remaining to send the game to overtime. But the game belonged to Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham. In regulation he hit field goals of 45, 46 & 48 yards. Then in the extra period he hit the winning score from 41 yards out.
"It was a lot of fun. It's amazing what can happen in a month. Start of the month, I lost my mother-in-law. I had been out of football this year. Two weeks ago I wasn't playing football, and now I'm part of the Pittsburgh Steelers and was fortunate to make a kick to win the game."
Sunday night concluded with a Chargers 36-14 win over the Colts that featured plenty of kicker Nate Kaeding. He hit three PATs and field goals of 28, 33, 50, 30 and 20 yards. But afterward he was more interested in discussing kickoffs.
"I think the big story is the way we covered kickoffs, the way those 10 guys came together. With everything we’ve been through this year with special teams, it was a real point of emphasis for us this week, especially with Peyton [Manning] out there and us wanting to give him as long a field as possible. Those guys were outstanding. They covered the heck out of the football, took care of business. It was fun to be a part of it....
That’s as good a job as I’ve ever been a part of. As far as I’m concerned, they pitched a perfect game."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Carolina & Cleveland: Compliments All Around

There was much specialist talk after yesterday's Carolina versus Cleveland game. Both kickers attempted important field goals late in the fourth quarter. With 2:42 remaining, Browns kicker Phil Dawson made a 41 yarder which would prove to be the game winner.
"I was certainly uncomfortable because I hadn’t touched the ball in the second half. The field also was an issue today with the lack of footing, and the ball was just kind of dying in the air....
[after a high snap] is when you’ve got to trust your preparation and ignore your emotions. Reggie did a great job on the hold and I was fortunate to get it in."
Phil's holder, punter Reggie Hodges, returned the compliment:
“Phil is the best kicker in the league, plain and simple, and the best I’ve ever played with. I spent a year in New York, where the winds are kind of tricky, but this is the toughest spot in the NFL to kick. It’s just amazing how well he knows the conditions here and how to respond to them.”
Trailing by one point, the Panthers had a chance to win it on the final play of the game, but kicker John Kasay's 42 yard attempt hit the upright.
"I try to do the best I can to give them opportunities to win. This is one of those days where they did everything they needed to do to win the game, and I was the one to let them down. There's no other way to look at it.... I wish I would have made that kick. It's a neat thing, seeing young guys stepping up and making plays. That's what it takes to win in this league, and those guys did that today. They got the job done. I was the one that failed."
Nonetheless, John's holder, punter Jason Baker, had nothing but kind words:
"I've never worked with anybody I would prefer to have out there in that situation, and I've worked with the all-time leading scorer [Morten Andersen] and two or three other guys in the top ten. And I would take him over every one of them every time."
The compliments afterward were not limited to just between team mates. Phil Dawson said of John Kasay:
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for John. He's as good as there is in the game now. You could make the case he's as good as there ever has been. Not only does John set a great example for all professional athletes, he's everything an NFL player should be."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Big Kickers on Campus, 2010 week 13

A summary of notable kicking during the thirteenth week of the 2010 college football season:

Freshman kicker Anthony Martinez hit a 34 yard FG in overtime to give Nevada a 34-31 upset win over Boise State.
"It's surreal. Sometimes you don't even believe it. Right now, I still can't believe it."
Freshman kicker Mitch Ewald hit a 26 yard FG with nine seconds remaining to send the game to overtime and then made a 31 yarder in overtime to give Indiana a 34-31 win over Purdue.
"It was kind of all a blur. I was so focused on making sure the kick was good. It feels really good to be able to help my team out."
Junior kicker David Nadeau hit a 19 yard FG as time expired to send the game to overtime and then made a 24 yarder in overtime to give Minnesota-Duluth a 20-17 win over St. Cloud State.
"I’m always doing the same things mentally. We practice this situation at the end of practice all the time. All the guys come up and surround me and give me some remarks.... The field was great. The weather really warmed up throughout the game. It’s the warmest day we’ve had in two weeks up here."
If we missed someone that should be on the above list, please let us know!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lou Groza Award 2010 Finalists

Earlier this week, the list of candidates for the 2010 Lou Groza Award was narrowed to three finalists. The winner will be announced on December 9th during The Home Depot College Football Awards show.

Dan Bailey, Oklahoma State
While kicking may look simple to the casual observer, it actually involves many elements. Early this month, Bailey discussed the importance of his shoes.
"I was going through warmups and I wasn’t hitting the ball very well. I couldn’t figure it out because I felt fine, and I looked down and the heel of my (plant foot) shoe had ripped apart from the sole. So, I was kind of forced to go to my backup pair....
When you wear them a long time, they kind of form to your foot. It’s almost like you’re not wearing shoes. The way they’re made, they’re real light. I just like them. They fit my feet just right. It’s hard to let them go....
I go to Hobby Lobby and buy a little thing of Super Glue. It’ll usually last for a few days or a game, then it’ll bust back open. Hopefully it’ll hold. I’m just trying to finish off the season the best I can."
Danny Hrapmann, Southern Miss
While discussing the award prospects of players on his team, Golden Eagles head coach Larry Fedora cast a strong vote for his kicker:
"I think that we have some guys that should be considered, but Danny Hrapmann might be our best candidate. I don't see how anyone could get it over him. If anyone was at that game [vs. Houston] the other night and saw him hit that 60-yard field goal, it was not his fault that it did not count. I can assure you of that. Danny has shown this year to me, at least on our football team, that I would have to give it to him."
David Ruffer, Notre Dame
Ruffer has not missed this year, going 15 of 15 on field goals. He recently discussed the rigors of kicking over the course of an entire season.
"You take it week by week. Some weeks are better than others. The bye week was late this year, so towards that seventh, eighth week, your leg starts to get a little tired.... You kick 70, 80 balls a week. Over the summer when I was training, it was at most 50 or 60. So those extra 20 or 30 balls don't sound like much, but it can wear you down. So you monitor it week by week, and when it's a little sore, I say, 'Hey, coach, can we take a few less reps today?'"

Friday, November 26, 2010

Two Championship Games; Four Kickers

UFL Championship Game
Saturday Nov 27th, 12:00pm EST

Nick Novak, Florida Tuskers
Novak almost left the Tuskers in mid-season, when the NFL's Chargers wanted to re-sign him in to fill in for the injured Nate Kaeding. However, the UFL exercised it's right to nix the deal. Novak went on to lead the UFL in scoring, hitting 15 of 18 field goals and 24 of 24 extra points. Earlier this week he was named Special Teams Player of the Year.
"This is amazing, but it isn’t an individual award, my holder, my snapper and the offensive line had a lot to do with this. It’s really a great honor and I want to thank the coaches and fans for voting for me."
Steve Hauschka, Las Vegas Locomotives
This past summer, we spoke to Steve Hauschka - who at the time was in camp with the NFL's Falcons. He also kicked for the Detroit Lions at the end of preseason and then was signed by the Locos part way through the regular season. Among the questions we asked was, 'What’s harder: football or neuroscience?'
"Good question. I guess kicking a football comes easier to me than a lot of things. It’s one of those things that you’ve got to keep simple. You can make it as complicated as you want. In neuroscience you’re constantly analyzing things at the smallest levels of detail. When it comes to kicking you can’t really analyze things at that same level of detail or else you’ll go crazy. At some point you’ve got to be an athlete. I guess I have to go with neuroscience is harder."
CFL Grey Cup
Sunday Nov 28th, 6:00pm EST

Damon Duval, Montreal Alouettes

The Alouettes are making their third straight Grey Cup appearance, and seventh in the past decade. That means this nothing new for Duval:
"Although we have young players in the team, we have so many veterans who have experienced the Grey Cup. This is the fifth time in six years that I've participated."
Warren Kean, Saskatchewan Roughriders
On the other side of the field, the experience is  definitely new for Kean - who after several years of not giving up finally landed a starting job in the CFL after starter Luca Congi was lost to injury part way through the season.
"I don't mean to sound cocky or insincere in any way, but you always have to believe otherwise I wouldn't be out there kicking, doing my thing. Being a kicker in the CFL, you've got guys playing until their 40s. I'm 26. I had to believe at some time it would come up and I'd take advantage of the opportunity."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NFL Week 11: If At First You Don't Succeed...

San Diego has struggled on special teams this year, however they provided a big play early in the Monday Night game. During the first quarter they picked up a first down on a fake punt when punter Mike Scifres completed a 28 yard pass to RB Mike Tolbert.
"I’ve thrown a couple since I’ve been here, but they weren’t very pretty. This was by far the prettiest of the three....
Jake [Jacob Hester] thought the look was there and, luckily, we took it. Tolbert’s the first option. At first, the guy kinda grabbed Mike and he didn’t get out as free as we’d hoped. I didn’t have a second read, so fortunately, he got off the guy....
It’s been a tough first nine weeks, but I always said we had the group of guys to get in there and make the plays and make things happen. That happened tonight."
While they still have a long way to go to catch up the the Chargers in terms on number of long snappers utilized this year, the Saints are gaining ground. This week they signed Justin Drescher, who replaces Jake Ingram, who late last week replaced Jason Kyle, who was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. New Orleans head coach Sean Payton discussed the initial move:
"Obviously, when we are working out long snappers on Saturday, we are caught off guard. I'm still going through myself the time frame of how we arrive on a Saturday workout with three guys in the building that I've never met or seen before, and one is going to long snap in this game. It's not a situation you want to be in."
Late in the game at New England, trailing by three points, Indianapolis was driving. It seemed almost inevitable that Adam Vinatieri - who knows a thing or two about clutch kicking - would get a chance to tie the game against his former team. However:
"It is a lot of emotion. It was a tough way to lose. Watching the [Colts] drive down the field and thinking about a game-tying field goal against the Patriots . . . and then the interception and it's over."
One player that did get plenty of kicks was Washington's Graham Gano. In fact he got six field goal opportunities, making four of them. He hit a 40 yarder in the third quarter to tie the game and then a 42 yarder in the fourth quarter to again tie the game. One of the misses came on the final play of regulation with the game still tied. He came up short on a 47 yard attempt. His long snapper, Nick Sundberg, commented on the play:
"That was a nasty wind. The ball was about two-thirds of the way there, and I was like, 'It's in,' and then all of a sudden it was like, 'Whoop'.... But we have to have a real short memory. If you start dwelling on previous things, that's when you start going downhill."
Gano would get another chance in overtime, and this time he was good from 48 yards. His holder, punter Hunter Smith, commented:
"I've held for a couple of the best to ever play [Adam Vinatieri and Mike Vanderjagt]. I don't know that a lot of people get it around here, in our reality, but good kickers - great kickers - miss lots of kicks. They just do. They miss game-winners. They miss kicks to push it into overtime. It just happens. But if you stick beside a guy, and give them some time to develop, they'll still miss kicks down the road, but what you're trying to find is someone who would be consistent 85 percent of the time. That's what we've got here. Graham is going to be really, really good."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Anschutz Trophy 2010

Colorado Rapids 2-1 FC Dallas

The Rapids won their first ever title, in a match that went to extra time. Dallas got on the board first, as league MVP David Ferreira opened the scoring in the first half. Prior to the game, he commented on the award and his hopes for the Finals:
"I dedicate it to my family-my wife, my kids and God, all who believe in me. I also dedicate to all our fans, our teammates and our coaching staff....
It would be quite an end to a great year, a year that I would say that is my best ever since I've been playing soccer."
Colorado leveled the score in the second half with a goal by Conor Casey, who received game MVP honors.
"It feels awesome. The club's waited a long time. I've waited a long time. It's great for so many reasons. We needed a goal. To draw level early in the second half was big for us."
The deciding goal came in the 107th minute and was credited to George John as an own goal:
"I'm not sure if I lunged toward the ball or not. But it happened so fast I think I was trying to lunge to get it and it bounced off me and I looked back and it's going into the back of the net. It cut Hartman off so he had had no chance....
That's the story of soccer. It's a cruel game but I chose to play it."
The deflected goal originated off a shot made by  Macoumba Kandji:
"I wouldn't give [John] credit. I scored that goal. I'm never going to give that credit. That is my goal. He can try to claim it all he wants. They can claim it, that they scored an own goal, but I took the guy on, toe-poked the ball. He just happened to be there....
It's fantastic, man. I'm just so happy."

Groza Talk: Advice to the Class of 2020

"When a kid asks you for an autograph, you better give it to him. If not, I'll make you do it."
- Lou "The Toe" Groza

A junior high aspiring kicker mentions that their goal is to one day be a Lou Groza Award semi-finalist. We asked some of this year's semi-finalists for their advice. Here is what they had to say.

Collin Wagner, Penn State
"Make sure that you listen to your parents and your coaches. Sometimes they might not know what they are talking about, but for the most part they are always right."

Dan Bailey, Oklahoma State
"I'd tell them to just stay focused and keep working hard. There are a lot of things that can distract you and keep you from achieving the goals you've set for yourself. Don't get too high or too low... every kicker is going to have those "bad" days as well as good days. Eliminate any non-factors and focus on being successful! The key is to establish a work ethic early on that will carry you through both the highs and lows."

Aaron Jones, Baylor
"Find a way to kick that works for you and stick with it. If it works, it doesn't matter if it's what most people consider the "right" way to kick."

Joe Phillips, Utah
"Something my dad always told me that has stuck with me and helped to become the person I am today is, "you are capable of doing anything in this life, always believe in yourself and your dreams, if you do that you will be successful" - Michael Phillips
But it doesn't end there, you also have to put in the time and effort to make it to your goal. Just believing isn't enough you have to make it a priority in your life. Another thing to do is write down your goals; you are more likely to successfully reach those goals if you write them down compared to just thinking about it. Lastly, have fun doing it. Don't let it become a burden to you, enjoy every moment you have playing football, because there is guaranteed to be someone who wishes they were in your shoes."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Big Kickers on Campus, 2010 week 12

A summary of notable kicking during the twelfth week of the 2010 college football season:

Junior kicker Randy Bullock's 19 yarder with 3:02 remaining was the game winner in battle of field goals, as Texas A&M won 9-6 over Nebraska.

Freshman kicker Austin Witmer's 22 yarder in the third quarter was the only successful FG on the day, but it was all Missouri State needed in their 3-0 win over North Dakota State.

Senior kicker Scott Blair made three FGs (41, 43 & 44 yards) and three PATs in Georgia Tech's 30-20 win over Duke.

Junior kicker Sean Kelley hit a 21 yard FG with 6:34 remaining to give UC Davis a 17-16 win over Sacramento State.

Sophomore punter Tyler Campbell's three punts went for 57, 69 & 60 yards during Mississippi's 43-36 loss to LSU.

If we missed someone that should be on the above list, please let us know!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Flurry of Opportunities

Job openings don't surface very frequently for any of the 32 starting kicker jobs in the NFL, so the past two weeks have been highly unusual. Last week saw two kickers signed - Shayne Graham to fill in for the injured Stephen Gostkowski in New England, and Dave Rayner to fill in for the injured Jason Hanson in Detroit. If that wasn't unusual enough, this week saw three more kickers signed to fill three new openings.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers decided to part ways with Jeff Reed. That opened the door for Shaun Suisham to get another shot at the NFL - coincidentally in the city where he first surfaced in the league over five years ago.
“I’m very excited to be here. In 2005 I would’ve paid the Steelers to let me come here. It was a really special opportunity. I didn’t even know if I was going to get into an NFL camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers did that for me. I had a lot of fun here. So I was really excited to get the phone call to come back.”
In San Francisco, injuries to starter Joe Nedney have created a temporary job opening for the second consecutive year. Once again, Shane Andrus is the beneficiary. Since he got the oppurtunity commentary out of the way last year, Andrus spoke this week about the weather - for which the game forecast includes rain:
“I’ve played over in NFL Europe so I’ve been a part of some pretty disastrous kicking conditions. In college I kicked back in Kentucky and there are some days where it’s pretty bad there, too, especially about this time of year. I’ve kicked (at Candlestick) through their winds in the preseason a little bit so I’m pretty familiar with it. I kicked in Tampa Bay last year and they had some pretty strong winds coming off the bay.”
While the Steelers and 49ers both opted to go with a veteran kicker, in Cincinnati, the Bengals opted to go with a rookie. Aaron Pettrey was signed after Mike Nugent suffered a season ending injury. Pettrey discussed the varied emotions of the situation:
"It's pretty cool. My dad is excited. My family is already looking for tickets.... 
It's bittersweet. It's nice being here, but I'd like to see Mike keep kicking this year. Under the circumstances, I wish it were a different route....
That's what I really wanted to do. Kicking and eventually making it to the NFL, at the highest level."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NFL Week Ten: Kicks, Pain & Love

Seattle kicker Olindo Mare probably likes to play against Arizona. In their earlier meeting this year he kicked five field goals. This week, in their second meeting, he kicked five field goals. After the game he didn't discuss the five makes, but rather his one miss - a 29 yarder that hit the left upright:
"There are no gimmes, because they're so good on the rush. (I) tried to rush it a little bit and made a mistake. Thank God it didn't cost us that much."
Three kickers that all rebounded from disappointing 2009 seasons to have a strong first half in 2010, each had a disappointing day this past Sunday.

In the Jets overtime win against the Browns, Nick Folk went 2 of 5 on field goals - missing from 48, 24, and 47 yards.
“You wish you could take some back but you can’t. It was a pretty sloppy day for me.”
Josh Scobee hadn't missed a field goal all year heading into Sunday's game against Houston. The Jaguars kicker missed two against the Texans.
"I've been trying to prepare myself mentally for when it eventually came that I missed a field goal. It might be bad to do that in a sense, because you're setting yourself up for failure. But I feel like I'm handing it better than I would have otherwise. It feels a whole lot better because we won. It was two bad kicks. Now it's time to go out and start working on a new streak....

I didn't make a good effort on that last kick. Fortunately this is a team game and the defense bailed me out big time. They made a huge play there to get the ball back. At that point I'm thinking we're going to go into overtime, so I'm trying to prepare myself mentally. They we get that once-in-a-lifetime Hail Mary. It didn't make up for the fact that I missed that potential game-winner, but it makes dealing with it a whole lot easier. Our defense makes that huge turnover there and I can't thank them enough. Some days you have bad days like I did today and you've got to get over it. I'm already over it."
Cincinnati kicker Mike Nugent had already had his game of field goal misses last week, however this week was worse. Although he did not miss any kicks in the Bengals 23-17 loss to the Colts, he suffered a season ending torn ACL during an onside kick late in the game.
"It wasn’t because I was in the pile. My job is to go left on that and I must have planted and gone the wrong way. I was really happy to see we had the ball."
49ers kicker Joe Nedney sprained his knee on the opening kickoff against the Rams this week, but played the remainder of the game - including hitting a 29 yard field goal in over time. While all of the above, from Mare through Nedney, covers the kicks and pains of the week, it still leaves us with one remaining question... where's the love? That came after Nedney's game winner when he signalled to his wife in the stands:
"Years and years ago, we'd give each other a big 'I love you' sign. She's been getting a little upset because I've been shirking my duties lately. I had to make sure I pointed her out and gave her one."

Monday, November 15, 2010

CFL Semi-Finals 2010

In the CFL's East Division Semifinal, the Toronto Argonauts pulled off a 16-13 upset win over Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

For the Ticats, kicker Sandro DeAngelis made field goals of 23 & 18 yards, but hit the upright in a 17 yard attempt. For the Argos, kicker Noel Prefontaine made field goals of 32, 12 & 13 yards and added a convert. He discussed the team's pregame approach of treating it as a typical road game - staying at hotel on Saturday:
"In the 10 years that I played with Toronto, I don’t think I ever stayed downtown. It’s different, but it is good. You get a quality rest. We love being with our families and enjoy waking up and seeing our children, but this way, we can focus on what we need to do in the game."
In the West Division Semifinal, the Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the British Columbia Lions 41-38 in double overtime.

For the Riders, recent acquisition Warren Kean missed his first field goal attempt from 40 yards. Nonetheless, he made the remainder of his kicks in the game, from 29, 22, 22 and 24 yards. Head coach Ken Miller had noted prior to the game that punter Eddie Johnson would handle any field goal attempts over 40 yards. After the game however, he noted that he would have used Kean when a potential 42 yard attempt almost surfaced in overtime.

For the Lions, kicker Paul McCallum was good on all his kicks, including field goals of 44, 37, 20, 45 & 37 yards. Immediately after the loss he tweeted:
"I really hate this feeling!" 
Several hours later he added:
"Thank you to all our fans for all your support! What else can I say but the future looks bright!"

MLS Conference Championships Goals

Eastern Conference Championship
Colorado Rapids 1-0 San Jose Earthquakes
Two big plays for the Rapids - one defensive and one offensive - were both supplied by Kosuke Kimura. In the 26th minute his save prevented Ryan Johnson from scoring.
"I knew his style of touching the ball one time before taking his shot. It gave me time to get back on the play and get back before he took the shot."
In the 43rd minute he scored the first and only goal of the match:
"I took the shot with the idea that good things happen when you put the ball to the net. It was a simple cross to Omar [Cummings] and it went in."
Western Conference Championship
FC Dallas 3-0 Los Angeles Galaxy
Dallas found the net three times last night. David Ferreira began things in the 26th minute, and is now looking to next weekend:
"This Sunday, we hope to be celebrating the title. We deserve to be champions, as does Colorado, because they've also worked incredibly hard."
In the the 54th minute, George John scored his first goal of the season and only the second of his MLS career. Marvin Chavez concluded the scoring in the 73rd minute off a pass from Ferreira. Afterward, coach Schellas Hyndman discussed the big picture for the game and for the franchise
"We really didn't have a player who didn't have a good game, and it took everybody having a good game to get this result.... This is the first time we've done this, and all of those years our fans have remained loyal and kept supporting us. Now we've given them a lot of pride."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Big Kickers on Campus, 2010 week 11

A summary of notable kicking during the eleventh week of the 2010 college football season:

Sophomore kicker Dustin Hopkins hit a 55 yard FG as time expired to give Florida State a 16-13 win over Clemson.

Senior kicker Trevor Cook hit a 33 yard FG as time expired to give Miami (OH) a 24-21 win over Bowling Green in foggy conditions.

Sophomore kicker Maikon Bonani's 37 yard FG in overtime gave South Florida a 24-21 win over Louisville.

Senior kicker Peter Nilson made a 29 yard FG as time expired to give Rensselaer a 29-27 win over the Merchant Marine Academy.

Freshman kicker Ross Krautman hit a 48 yard FG in the third quarter to tie the game and then made a 24 yarder with 1:07 remaining to give Syracuse a 13-10 win over Rutgers.

Senior kicker Chris Hazley made four FGs (52, 38, 26 & 23 yards) in Virginia Tech's 26-10 win over North Carolina. He has now made 17 straight field goals.

Sophomore kicker Nick VanMeter hit a 38 yard FG with 45 seconds remaining to give Capital University a 34-31 win over Marietta College.

Junior kicker Porfirio Diaz made a 28 yard FG in overtime to give Concordia a 24-21 win over St. Olaf and helped them retain the Troll Trophy.

If we missed someone that should be on the above list, please let us know!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ray Guy Award 2010 Semi-Finalists

The Ray Guy Award, presented annually to the nation’s best collegiate punter, has announced this year's ten semi-finalists:

Bryan Anger, California, junior
"Anger is a semifinalist for the second time in his career, also earning the distinction as a freshman in 2008 and has been on the award's watch list during each of his three seasons at Cal. Anger is averaging 45.8 yards per punt over his first nine games and 43 punts of 2010, ranks third in the Pac-10 and 10th nationally. He is also ahead of Cal's single-season school record of 45.3 set by Scott Tabor in 1987. Anger's 2010 mark is also 2.7 yards better than his career average of 43.1, a figure that ranks second all-time at Cal behind Tabor's 44.0 from 1986-87."
Drew Butler, Georgia, junior
"Butler, a 6-foot-2, 203-pound native of Duluth, won the 2009 Ray Guy Award after averaging a national-best 48.1 yards per punt to become a consensus All-American. Butler has continued his stellar play into his junior season. He is second in the SEC with a 45.2 average on 41 punts, including 14 that have traveled longer than 50 yards. Dropping 17 of those punts within the 20-yard line, Butler has put Georgia at the No. 4 spot in the nation in net punting with an average of 41.1. Butler is on pace to become the school’s all-time leader in punting average for a career with a mark of 46.5."
Ryan Donahue, Iowa, senior
"Donahue is a 6-3, 190-pound senior from Evergreen Park, IL. He is averaging 45 yards on 36 punts this season. He has booted four of the 13 longest punts in Hawkeye history, including a school second best 82-yarder as a freshman. He has three other punts over 70 yards during his Iowa career. He has been Iowa's starting punter the last four years. He was an honorable mention all Big Ten selection last year and as a freshman. He made the second all-league team as a sophomore. He has averaged over 40 yards per punt all four years as a Hawkeye. He has had 16 of his 36 punts downed inside the 20 this season."
Reid Forrest, Washington State, senior
"Forrest, a senior from Ephrata, became WSU’s all-time leader in punts (264) and punt yardage (11,267) earlier this season ranks second-time in career punting average (42.7). Forrest is also the active career FBS leader in punts and punt yardage. This season Forrest is averaging a career-best 45.7 yards per punt and ranks fourth in the Pacific-10 Conference and 12th nationally. He has connected for 17 punts of 50-plus yards and four punts of 60 yards or more, including a career-best of 84 yards last week against California. It marked the second-longest punt in WSU history and tied for the fourth-longest by a Pac-10 player."
Chas Henry, Florida, senior
"Henry has punted 33 times for 1,590 yards (48.18 average) through nine games in 2010. Twelve of his punts have landed inside the 20-yard line and only 10 have been returned. Henry has also taken over kicking duties for the Gators and was named the SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in Florida’s 34-31 overtime win against Georgia after he kicked the team’s winning field goal."
Dan Hutchins, Pittsburgh, senior
"Hutchins (Williamsport, PA / Loyalsock Township) is averaging 45.5 yards per punt. Eleven of his punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line (31%). An impressive 54% of his punts have not been returned. The Panthers boast a 41.2 net punting average."
Kyle Martens, Rice, junior
"A junior from Spearfish, S.D., Martens leads Conference USA and is fifth in the nation with a 46.93-yard average on 45 punts this season. He has 17 punts inside the 20-yard line, including nine inside the 10. His previous career-best was 14 inside the 20 in 2008."
Anthony Santella, Illinois, senior
"Santella has become one of the nation's best punters in his senior campaign, averaging 46.2 yards per punt, which ranks eighth in the country. He also is averaging a net of 39.5 yards per punt, 12th-best in the nation. Santella also has recorded a career-best 16 punts over 50 yards and 12 inside the 20-yard line in 2010. The last Illini punter to be named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award list was Steve Weatherford in 2004."
Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State, sophomore
"Sharp is currently No. 2 in the nation with a 47.3 yards-per-punt average. He is the only sophomore among the 10 semifinalists. Sharp has shown a strong leg as well as the ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory. He has 11 punts of 50 yards longer and six of 60 yards or longer this year, and had four punts downed inside the 8-yard line in one game against Kansas State. Sharp also leads in the nation with 43 kickoffs resulting in touchbacks, with the closest team total behind him being Florida State’s 32. Sharp’s predecessor, Matt Fodge, won the 2008 Ray Guy Award."
Dawson Zimmerman, Clemson, junior
"Zimmerman has averaged 43.6 yards per punt on 42 attempts this year. He is on pace to record the fourth best punting average in Clemson history and the best since Chris Gardocki averaged a Clemson record 44.5 yards a punt in 1990. Zimmerman has a net punting average of 41.8 yards per punt and 14 of his 42 punts have been downed inside the 20. He is the major reason Clemson is 14th in the nation and first in he ACC in net punting. Opponents have just 75 total punt returns against Zimmerman's 42 punts this year and opponents have not had any punt return yards against the Tigers in the last three games."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Groza Talk: in the Beginning

"I used to get a kick out of kicking the ball over the telephone wires when we would play touch football in the street."
- Lou Groza

How does someone end up becoming a football kicker? We asked this year's Lou Groza Award semi-finalists, "How did it all begin?" While each kicker has their own unique story, there is also a common starting point. Not surprisingly, each kicked the round ball before they kicked the oblong ball.

Aaron Jones, Baylor
"I started playing soccer when I was about four, so I guess it started then. I didn't start football until 7th grade and I wasn't the starting kicker until about our 4th game. Our other kicker got detention so I kicked for the B team. I was so pumped up that my first kickoff went to the five [yard line] in the air. After that game, I got moved up to the A team. After that, I pretty much knew that I was gonna be good."

Derek Dimke, Illinois
"I played soccer since as long as I could remember. My soccer team was pretty good and we went back-to-back regional champs and national finalists. I always thought I would play soccer in college. My freshman year the football team needed a kicker and our coach asked me to try it out. I kicked pretty well in high school as a freshman, sophomore, and junior. The summer before my senior year I decided to go to a few kicking camps and see how I stacked up against other kickers my age. I surprised myself when I was finishing in the top few guys at every camp, so I decided to give kicking a shot instead of soccer. My dream was to play at Illinois, and I was fortunate to perform well at their summer kicking camp. After that I was always in touch with the coaches, and when the chance came after a visit to commit to Illinois, I took it. I have been very blessed with the opportunities that the coaches and other players have given me. It has been the best decision of my life."

Kai Forbath, UCLA
"I grew up playing soccer and went into high school thinking that is what I wanted to do in college then freshman year of high school my high school had a kicking coach named Chris Sailer come to school every Monday and he saw some potential in me and we started working together and still to this day he is my kicking coach. He was a Notre Dame High School and UCLA grad like me so he had been a great mentor and coach who had taught me everything I know about kicking."

Dan Conroy, Michigan State
“I played soccer for seven years as a kid, and like a lot of my friends, I made the transition to football in the seventh grade. The team needed a kicker, and before I knew it, I kicked a 32-yard field goal as a seventh-grader. I had been a sweeper in soccer, so I had probably the biggest leg on the team since it was my job to get the ball out of the defensive side of the field. I really didn’t do anything special early in my high school career. I got moved up to the varsity for the playoffs as a sophomore. I had the opportunity to play in the state championship game as a junior, but the only year I really had the chance to shine was as a senior when my team returned to the state championship game. I decided to pass on a scholarship offer from Western Michigan to pursue my dream of kicking for Michigan State.”

Blair Walsh, Georgia
"Brett Swenson (former Michigan State kicker) was on the same high school soccer team as me and he got me started kicking. I had always played travel soccer but I decided to give it a try. With the help of my kicking coach Nick Gancitano and guidance from Chris Sailer, I eventually developed into a kicker."

Collin Wagner, Penn State
"Eighth grade. All of my life long soccer buddies wanted to give football a try, so we all decided to do that. The coach knew we were all former soccer players, so he had all of us kick and used a few of us to do that for the season."

Joe Phillips, Utah
"I was in high school and was a junior. I had played soccer my whole life and loved football my whole life as well. I wanted to try out kicking, so I decided to join the football team. I instantly loved it! I played my junior and senior years. I wasn't recruited anywhere and worked for a year and then went on a two year lds mission. I returned in May of 2007 and walked-on at Snow college. It took me six games to earn the starting spot and then kept for the remainder of that season and throughout 2008. I asked coach Hill for an opportunity to walk-on at the University of Utah. He told me I could after the last game of the 2008 season. I came to the U in January of 2009 and worked hard to get a shot at playing. In the second game of the 2009 season I got my chance. I kept kicking the rest of that year and am fortunate to be here still. That's the story."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NFL Week Nine: Three Other Things

Having already discussed the Three Extra Point Attempts and the Three Overtime Field Goals from week nine of the NFL season, that leaves us with the Three Other Things.

Tampa Bay kicker Connor Barth kicked and himself recovered an onside kick in the third quarter, however the play was overturned. Upon review it was seen that the ball had inadvertently grazed Barth's leg before it had traveled ten yards.
"We practice it all the time and it was a good call. I slid by it, the refs made a judgment call and you have to live with it."
On a busy day in which he didn't have any punts, Baltimore punter Sam Koch's biggest play came in the third quarter on what ended up as a fake punt. His 13 yard pass completion was the first ever of his career and gave the Ravens a first down.
"Very interesting day. More than likely, we won't see that again for a while, but I'll continue to punt and do my job....
I saw [Chad Williams] out there, but I just figured someone was going to cover him up sooner or later. However, people just started yelling and yelling and yelling. When I caught the [snap], I was thinking do I punt or throw? I decided to throw it."
San Diego played at Houston, which meant that kicker Kris Brown - still subbing for the injured Nate Kaeding - was back at home. Prior to this year, he was the Texans first and only kicker since they joined the league in 2002..
"When you drive past your house and the street you live on and drive in to work the same way you did for eight years -- it was a lot more emotional than I thought it would be.... That let me come in here and whatever emotions there may have been, I got those over on Saturday. Had I not done that, it probably would have been more difficult."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NFL Week Nine: Three Overtime Field Goals

Three of Sunday's thirteen games went into overtime. Each was won with a field goal. In Oakland, the Raiders won a key AFC West match-up with a 23-20 win over the Chiefs. Sebastian Janikowski hit a 41 yard FG with three seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game and then hit a 33 yarder in overtime to win it.

In Minnesota, the Vikings pulled out a 27-24 win over Arizona. They scored two two fourth quarter touchdowns to tie the game, and then Ryan Longwell hit the 35 yard game winner in overtime.
"They're all tough. I don't like the words 'chip shot' or 'gimme.' There's just as much pressure on Cullen [Loeffler, the long snapper] and [punter/holder Chris] Kluwe as there is on me in that situation. Those guys are awesome. They give me a chance to aim where I want and hit it."
In Detroit, the Jets needed a fourth quarter touchdown and Nick Folk's 36 yard field goal as time expired to tie the Lions. New York then won the game on Folk's 30 yarder in the extra period. The NFL made the rule change this past offseason to prevent games from being won by a field goal on the opening possession of overtime in the playoffs. Folk however was thinking that also applied to the regular season:
“I saw that it was second down and I’m doing my pre-kick routine and Mike [Westhoff, special teams coordinator] yells over to me, ‘Come on, we’re kicking’. I was thinking, ‘It’s only third down. Shouldn’t we be trying to score a touchdown?’ This is what I thought: We needed a touchdown [to win the game]. A field goal was obviously good, but I thought [the Lions] would have one possession to either kick a field goal to tie or score a touchdown to win it....
That is why that might have been the worst game-winning celebration ever. When I made it, I turned to go get ready to kick off. Then I saw everyone running onto the field and was like, ‘OK, we won. Woo hoo’."

Monday, November 8, 2010

NFL Week Nine: Three Extra Point Attempts

Extra Points are almost are a sure thing in the NFL. Almost, but not quite. A few are typically missed each year. Yesterday's games saw two missed PATs. Both, along with one that was successful, were noteworthy. One was news because of the end result, but the other two were news more so because of who was kicking.

For Buffalo Bills kicker Rian Lindell, when the Bears blocked his third quarter PAT attempt, it was the first missed extra point of his NFL career and it brought a significant streak to an end. His previous 321 consecutive PATs were the most ever by a player to start their pro career. It was also the fourth longest NFL streak ever, behind only Matt Stover, Jason Elam, and Jeff Wilkins.
"I felt fine. [Idonije] came from up the middle. If I could go back and do it again, maybe I would have chipped it a little more. It was unfortunate, especially with what happened after that....
It was the second block I ever had. I had one [field goal attempt] blocked a few years ago, so it's odd to get one blocked.... There are a couple other records I'd rather have."
Detroit also had a missed extra point, but it didn't bring an end to a streak. It was in fact the player's first kick in an NFL game. With starting kicker Jason Hanson temporarily out of the game with a knee injury, the Lions' used defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as their backup. Head coach Jim Schwartz noted:
"Ndamukong is our backup field goal kicker; he's done it in practice. We have a lot of confidence that he could kick it. It put him in a difficult situation because he went out without any warm-ups. I probably should have called a timeout and given him time to get ready."
Suh himself commented:
"I need to be ready at all times. I practice it, I just didn't execute."

New England also had to utilized a backup kicker when start Stephen Gostkowski's leg tightened up during the game. Wide receiver Wes Welker serves as the backup and has prior game experience from back in 2004 with the Dolphins.
"We just got to be ready for any sort of situation.... [smiling] As you can see, it’s an easy job... No, I’m just kidding."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Big Kickers on Campus, 2010 week 10

A summary of notable kicking during the ninth week of the 2010 college football season:

Sophomore kicker Todd Adolf made a 45 yard FG as time expired to give Northwest Missouri State a 17-16 win against Central Missouri.

Junior kicker Casey Barth hit a 22 yard FG with 55 seconds remaining to give North Carolina a 37-35 win over Florida State.

Freshman kicker Michael Meyer made four FGs (23, 27, 27 & 42 yards) in Iowa's 18-13 win over Indiana.

Junior kicker Robert Randolph ran for a 20 yard TD on a fake and score six PATs in Virginia's 48-55 loss to Duke.

Junior kicker James Aho hit a 38 yard FG as time expired to give New Mexico a 34-31 win over Wyoming.

Senior kicker Ross Gornall made a 26 yard FG in the 4th quarter to give Florida Atlantic a 17-16 win over Western Kentucky.

Senior kicker Kai Forbath hit a 51 yard FG as time expired to lift UCLA 17-14 over Oregon

Senior kicker Peter Nilson made a 34 yard FG with no time remaining to give RPI a 24-21 win over Hobart College.

Sophomore kicker Philippe Panico hit a 36 yard FG with 9:30 remaining to give Yale a 27-24 win over Brown.

Senior kicker Joe Houston made a 29 yard FG with 3:06 remaining to give USC a 34-33 win over Arizona State.

Sophomore kicker Wil Kamin's 20 yard FG in overtime gave Richmond a 13-10 win over James Madison

Junior kicker Derek Dimke hit FGs of 44, 43 & 43 yards plus added six PATs in Illinois' 67-65 loss to Michigan.

Freshman kicker Cameron Berra  hit a 37 yard FG in overtime to give Eastern Illinois a 31-28 win over Tennessee State.

If we missed someone that should be on the above list, please let us know!

Taylor Rowan: Kicking Around the Nation and Around Hanging Objects

Taylor Rowan's kicking career began in Florida at Melbourne High. Most recently he's been in the opposite corner of the country, kicking for the AFL champion Spokane Shock. Between those two he's kicked in several other varied locales: from 2005 to 2008 he was a four year starter at Western Illinois University, and in 2009 he kicked for the Arkansas Twisters of the AF2 and the New York Sentinels of the UFL. He recently took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us:

What is your earliest recollection of kicking a football?
“Back in my junior year of high school, the head football coach for our school was my P.E. teacher. Two days before their first game the kicker got hurt and quit. So the coach came up to me, knowing I played soccer, and said, ‘Do you wanna kick for us Friday?’ I wasn’t interested, because of the pressure of doing it after never having practiced it and having to kick two days later. But he ended up coming to me again and saying, ‘If you want to pass my gym class you’re going to be out at practice’. So I was out at practice that afternoon before soccer, and ended up kicking the ball that afternoon and did extremely well. I kicked in my first game Friday night and kicked a 32 yard field goal. That was before I even knew how to step off or anything.”

Back at Western Illinois you set the FCS record for 129 consecutive extra points. For those casual fans that aren’t impressed by that, could you explain why that is a lot harder than it sounds?
“Starting out in my freshman year we were playing Toledo. I remember going two-for-two in that game and my coach saying, ‘let’s see how long we can keep that up.’ It’s not just a kick. A lot of fans say, ‘Well it’s easy to kick a ball through the uprights’, which it is – but when you add in a rush and a hold and a snap, everything has to be perfect every time. So going 129 straight over four year consecutive years is pretty tough. Especially when you’re kicking six or seven extra points in a game, some times it’s easy to get a little bit relaxed and pull one left or right. But the continuous form from twenty yards out isn’t a given. I definitely had a great snapper and holder during the whole process.”

A couple question relative to your arena football experiences… Was your time with the Arkansas Twisters your first encounter with the narrow goal posts?
“Yea it was. After my college experience I had graduated and moved down to Florida. As I was driving from Spokane Washington back to Florida, I got call while I was driving through Arkansas. I actually stopped in and tried out with about six games left. I remember going in for the first time and figured I might want to do a one-step kick to put it through the uprights. But that upright being half the size is pretty intimidating. It really, really, really makes you focus solely on form. That was a whole new experience, especially going from college to a narrow upright. The college jump to arena was very intimidating.”

How do kickoffs differ in arena ball?
“The net is exactly 58 yards away and it’s eight feet up, so it’s about sixty yards to get it to the net. You only have eight yards you can go back, but I’ve figured out that going eight yards back instead of any further has actually helped me out on kickoffs. For any kickers out there you know what I’m talking about – the further back you start going the more inconsistent your steps start to get. So it’s actually helped me a lot on my kickoffs, getting more consistent. I do five steps back and three over. It’s the same kickoff and everything, but without having wind in there it allows you to hit the ball little bit better. The only thing that’s a little bit different from outdoors is that every arena you go to is different. Some of the arena roofs are a lot lower than other arenas, so you have to be able to adjust your kickoffs – line drive the ball a little bit more in some arenas, while in some arenas you can really just kick away. The key is to get a lot of hang time and let the ball hit off the high part of the net, so it takes a lot longer for the returner to get it.”

You mentioned the low ceiling in some of the arenas, aside from that, are there any other unique facilities conditions that made kicking a challenge?
“Yea!. In some of the arenas you have to deal with a really low scoreboard in the middle, so sometimes you have to go off to the right or left side to kick around it. In some of them the rafters are extremely low. Some of them have flags hanging in there. In Orlando, when you go play the Predators, their nets are a little bit closer together. The nets normally extend to the very edge of the field. But in Orlando they have rounded endzones, so the nets are actually a little bit less than three-quarters of the field. So you have to kick around the scoreboard, and then in kicking around the scoreboard you also have to hit the net which is a lot skinnier. The key is obviously hitting the iron, so the ball bounces out as a live ball. There are a lot of obstacles you have to deal with.”

How was the ArenaBowl experience?
“The ArenaBowl experience was one of a kind! Playing for Spokane Shock is the best experience I think you can have in playing arena football, with how many championships they have here. ArenaBowl was pretty cool. We had three or four games on NFL Network leading up the ArenaBowl… having Kurt Warner on the field and all these well known NFL guys on NFL Network just walking around. Playing for Spokane, every game is pretty much sold out, so just the noise level. Then playing Tampa Bay, which is one of the most well known franchises in the history of arena football, playing them and their coaches - just a different level, their team being a more experienced, older team and our team being a new team with a lot of younger players. It was pretty cool… being on national television in a sold out arena was definitely the loudest experience I’ve ever played in, and that’s including playing SEC opponents in college.”

Looking back over your entire career, does a particular field goal come to mind as your biggest kick?
“I would say my biggest kick was either North Dakota State or Illinois State my senior year [of college]. Against North Dakota State we were up by three with less than two minutes to go. It was a 54 yard field goal in their dome. If we missed it, all they had to do was drive maybe 25 yards the other direction to kick a field goal to tie it. There was somewhere between 45 seconds and minute left, and I went out and hit a 54 yarder which broke the record in the Fargo Dome. The other one was Illinois State my senior year. The game was tied and I kicked a 34 yard field goal to give us a win. There’s a lot of kicks I could think of. This year there was a 40 yard field goal against Chicago right before half to put us about by three.“

Are you still on the coaching staff for Feely Kicking School?
“I am. I’m on the coaching staff right now for Feely Kicking School. It’s been kind of tough, going from UFL to AFL to college and moving all over the place. It’s been kind of tough to settle in, but when I’m home I always go over and coach for him. Right now I’m just coaching at local high schools around the area in Spokane.”

Has coaching others ended up helping you with your own kicking?
“Yea, actually I was just on the phone talking to my dad about that. I’m heading up here in a little bit to a high school to coach. It’s a lot different when you’re coaching and you’re actually kicking with the players, because it puts a lot more pressure on you. If you’re going out and kicking against someone who kicks in the NFL, like Jay Feely or any of these other guys that you’re kicking against – they have nothing to gain. If you kick better than them then you have everything to gain, so there’s a lot more pressure on an NFL guy. It’s the same thing going out and kicking with high schoolers for me. Some of these high schoolers are really experienced, so you have to be on your game kicking against them to show why you’re coaching and have the better form. In coaching them it definitely helps me with my kicking – just keeping form, keeping the head down, and really following through the ball straight. You have to be able to exemplify that when coaching.”