Friday, December 13, 2002
On the Mike: European bound
By Mike Diegnan
Where have you gone, Scott Bentley?
Florida State returns to Miami this Saturday and memories of Wide Right I and II are definitely going through Bobby Bowden's mind.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski left for the NFL a year early and created a gaping hole -- one that could even help the Seminoles' running game -- in FSU's quest to repeat as national champions. Without Janikowski booming field goals and nailing extra points, the Seminoles have been in trouble when the special teams have been called on for the first time since Dan Mowry missed a 34-yarder in the waning seconds of the '92 clash in the Orange Bowl ("Wide Right II").
With highly touted recruit and Janikowski-sized Brett Cimorelli still nursing a bad groin that has prevented his effectiveness (2 of 3 on extra points), Bowden is counting on third-string Matt Munyon to deliver the goods. Munyon and Chance Gwaltney are no guarantees after Chris Weinke delivers another touchdown pass. In all, the three kickers are a combined 22 of 28 on extra points and have missed three field goals within 34 yards. (Janikowski was 47-47 on PATs last year.)
Kicking woes are an epidemic all around college football. Just last weekend, Top 25 teams missed a combined nine PATs in 95 tries. An extra point in football is supposed to be easier than a free throw in basketball -- and we all know how many people complain when a star can't hit those. It's 20 yards out and nearly any high school kicker could pop it in between the crossbars 99 percent of the time. Yet this year, we have already seen 30 missed kicks by the current Top 20 alone. Just five of the Top 20 have been perfect (Nebraska, Oklahoma, Auburn, TCU and Southern Mississippi).
That doesn't include what happened to Purdue and Wisconsin this weekend. Purdue's Travis Dorsch -- who also had two punts blocked -- missed a 46-yard field goal with 2:32 left that would have given Purdue the lead. In Ann Arbor, the Badgers Vitaly Pisetsky, a finalist for the Lou Groza Award last year, missed a game-tying field goal with 2:42 left from 42 yards out.
Just a few years after it seemed like kicking games had become too simple, maybe they should think about going back to using tees.
But there's an even better idea. College football recruiters should start packing their bags and head for the soccer fields of Europe. Look what has happened to college basketball in the past two decades since coaches began scanning the globe for sharpshooters and 7-footers. The raw talent of players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Andrew Gaze and Drazen Petrovic made them all stars in college and a future professionally.
Baseball has also taken advantage in recent years, and now you have teams with players speaking eight different languages in clubhouses.
But for college football, it is an unvisited crop, even though two of the all-time greats in professional football came from European soccer backgrounds (Morten Anderson of Denmark and Norway's Jan Stenerud).
In the past three years, two of the best kickers in the country are former immigrants of Eastern Europe and they didn't even begin speaking English until they were teenagers. Janikowski of course knows how to say "million dollars" today, while Pisetsky -- despite his miss on Saturday -- is on his way towards a run at an NFL career after emigrating from Russia in 1992.
With scholarships limited at 85, schools now must be creative in ways to get the most out of its roster. A trek to Europe could be a nice bonus for a hard-working coach and his family who he never sees from August to January.
A side trip to the soccer fields could then be the final piece to the puzzle for a championship.
Mike Diegnan is the editor of BCSfootball.com.
|Florida State is still trying to find a replacement for Sebastian Janikowski.|