Lack of faith in kickers is clear for Utes

By By Paige Fieldsted

By Paige Fieldsted

As I looked down from the press box on the gloomy field at Autzen Stadium on Saturday afternoon, I wondered aloud, “Have the Utah coaches lost all faith in their kickers?”

To me and The Chronicle’s assistant editor, Bryan Chouinard, it was evident that the answer was yes.

It was clear that the Utah coaching staff didn’t trust the kickers when they chose to go for the touchdown on a fourth-and-12 early in the second quarter, instead of kicking what would have been a 40-yard field goal. Although 40 yards isn’t a short field goal by any means, it is definitely makeable8212;or should be for a college kicker.

To have faith in the offense to convert on fourth-and-12 when it had struggled to do much of anything up to that point in the game was the coaching staff’s way of making a very loud statement.

A statement that said: “Louie Sakoda is gone, his replacement was terrible last week, and now we don’t know what to do with ourselves.”

Later in the quarter, the Utes again opted to go for first down when in field goal range8212;this time a much closer field goal. Utah attempted a touchdown 2 yards from the end zone on the final play of the first half.

I admit the chances of completing a 2-yard play are much greater than for a 12-yard play, but with the Utes trailing 21-7, any points would have been better than no points. If your kicker can’t complete a less-than-20-yard field goal, your team is in big trouble.

Granted, even if the Utes had kicked field goals on both occasions, they still would have come up one point short when the clock hit zero, but I think what happened in Oregon has huge implications for the rest of the season.

When asked if the players were lacking faith in their kickers, head coach Kyle Whittingham skirted the question, explaining instead that they went for it at the very end of the second quarter because they thought the team had momentum, though maybe in hindsight, they should have kicked the field goal instead.

Although I didn’t expect Whittingham to say, “Well yes, our kickers suck and they can’t be trusted to make anything less than 25 yards,” I still think there might be some concern the coach isn’t showing. I’d be concerned if my first-string kicker missed three field goals in one game, too.

Later that night, sitting at dinner, we got into a discussion with a Utah fan who interrupted our discussion about the kickers by saying, “Louie was a luxury, wasn’t he?”

Louie indeed was a luxury and had he been playing, the Utes could have almost been guaranteed at least six more points. Louie, however, is gone, and though he is back as a graduate assistant, it is clear that deadly accuracy and long range are skills that can’t be passed on.

Whether the Utes were doubting their kickers or just put an immense amount of faith in new quarterback Terrance Cain is something that will probably never be known.
Either way, Utah needs to fix the kicker problem8212;and fast. Without a dependable field goal kicker, the Utes could find themselves on the losing side of the scoreboard more than once this season.

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