Converting extra points not such a sure thing (Big Ten Insider)

Zach Silka

Running onto the field and kicking the game-tying extra point are no longer routine for the college placekicker. After Oregon State lost its game to Louisiana State on Sept. 4 because of Alexis Serna’s missed extra point, many Big Ten coaches began biting their nails during extra-point attempts.

Northwestern’s Brian Huffman, Ohio State’s Mike Nugent and Michigan State’s Dave Rayner are the only kickers in the conference who have converted all of their extra-point attempts.

No kicker in the Big Ten has converted all of his field-goal attempts this season. Nugent leads the conference, making eight-of-nine field goals. Huffman is near the bottom with only three-of-nine field goals made.

Michigan kicker Garrett Rivas missed two extra points two weeks ago against Miami (Ohio), and Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr has a few reasons for the lackluster kicking.

“Special teams coaches are doing a great job of rushing every kick and putting pressure on the kicker,” Carr said. “A lot must go right on a field goal. The hold, the snap and the protection must all be perfect for a successful kick. One thing a kicker has to fight is being distracted by the rush.”

Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez has had to deal with disappointment in his team’s kicking game for the first time in about seven seasons. Badgers’ kicker Mike Allen has missed one extra point and three field goals in six attempts this year.

“Going from kicking off a tee in high school to kicking off the ground in college is a major adjustment,” Alvarez said. “I’ve seen kids who have become entirely different kickers, kicking on the ground than off a tee.”

Penn State coach Joe Paterno doesn’t see the recent kicking woes around college football as a dropoff in talent or lack of recruiting. He’s used a variety of walk-ons and scholarship players for placekicking over the years.

“Myself and almost every other college coach spend more time recruiting kickers than any other position,” he said.

KEEPING THEM GUESSING: After using a quarterback-by-committee approach in his team’s first three games this season, Michigan State coach John L. Smith is not divulging plans for the position for this week’s game at Indiana.

The reason for the ongoing quarterback controversy is an offseason injury to sophomore Drew Stanton, who was slated to be the opening-day starter.

Senior Damon Dowdell started the season against Rutgers before relinquishing the job to redshirt freshman Stephen Reaves and Stanton. The three continue to battle for the starting job in practice because Smith has chosen to leave the position vacant.

“There wasn’t clear separation at quarterback before the season, but not having Stanton around has hurt us,” Smith said. “We’re slower as a unit because our progress as a team is tied to the progress at quarterback.”

REVEALING THE BALLOTS: As a result of another renovation of the Bowl Championship Series rankings last offseason, the coaches’ and media polls have been given more weight in the BCS formula. Because of this, an idea has been circulated calling for the coaches to reveal their ballots. Most coaches have shown great displeasure at the idea of publicizing their top 25 rankings.

“If you don’t have to disclose your ballot, you vote exactly what you think,” Paterno said.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he worried there would be negative repercussions for his team.

“I’m not sure coaches would want to make their ballots public in fear of creating bulletin-board material,” Tressel said. “We do enough to get ourselves in trouble.”

RUNNING FOR THE RECORD: With his 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week against Notre Dame, Michigan State kickoff returner DeAndra Cobb is one touchdown shy of the Big Ten record of five. The record was set by Anthony Davis.

“I played against (Davis), so I know what an incredible record that is,” said Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo, whose team will face Cobb’s onSaturday.

Reach Zach Silka at [email protected]

Power Poll: Back to School Edition

1. Ohio State (3-0): Too cool for school

2. Purdue (2-0): Orton is big man on campus

3. Michigan (2-1): Big exam on Saturday

4. Minnesota (3-0): Partying at the Keg

5. Wisconsin (3-0) Homesick for Madison

6. Iowa (2-1) Got beat up for lunch money

7. NU (1-2) Finally moved in

8. Indiana (2-1) Over-achieving

9. Illinois (2-1) Beutjer back in nurse’s office

10. Penn State (2-1) Already lost room keys

11. Michigan State (1-2) Triples don’t work