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Published: Friday, 9/21/2012

Kicking problems plague MAC teams

Missed FGs, extra points a concern

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Missed field goals, like this one by Bowling Green kicker Tyler Tate, 98, continue to be a concern for MAC football teams.
Missed field goals, like this one by Bowling Green kicker Tyler Tate, 98, continue to be a concern for MAC football teams.
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Through three games the percentage of made field goals by Mid-American Conference kickers is the lowest it has been in at least a decade, an alarming revelation overshadowed by an early season tinged with noteworthy non-conference wins and narrow losses.

Kickers are just 38 of 64 for 59 percent -- a drop of 13 percent from the 2011 season -- with misses coming from chip-shot distances of 21, 24, 28, 29 (twice), and 31 yards.

"That is really interesting," said Ball State coach Pete Lembo, whose Steven Schott made a 42-yarder as time expired Saturday to beat Indiana. "I did not know our field goal percentage is just above 50 percent."

Fifteen of the 26 misses have come from less than 40 yards, attempts most coaches expect to produce three points. Also alarming: Six teams have missed an extra point, including Bowling Green last week at the Glass Bowl in a rivalry loss to Toledo. Disenchanted with his kickers -- three of whom are on scholarship, and another, a walk-on, who won the competition in camp -- Falcons coach Dave Clawson chose to go for two points after a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, a profession of distrust in a position that has been abysmal in his tenure at the school. In four seasons, Clawson's kickers have missed 11 extra points and are 27 of 51 on field goals.

His roll of the dice was in vain, and BG's deficit remained at nine -- a two-possession game.

BG kickers have missed from 29, 31, and 36 yards.

"Right now when we get the ball inside the 20, three points is far from a sure thing for us," Clawson said after the game.

Misery loves company. Akron is 2 for 5 -- missing twice inside the 40, and on a 45-yarder in overtime of a loss -- as is Western Michigan. Kent State is 5 for 10, with the usually reliable Freddy Cortez already matching his 2011 total for misses with four.

Such futility does not necessarily signal a trend in the MAC, as the 72 percent made last year marked the high point over a 10-year period and exceeded the national average of 70 percent. This year's number is on pace to fall below the 63 percent from 2010.

"You need to have the right guy there, and the right guy for us is not only a guy who has a strong leg but is really an athletic guy and a guy who is really composed," said Ohio's Frank Solich, whose Matt Weller is 6 for 9.

Toledo's Jeremiah Detmer has been solid but unspectacular, making 5 of 8 but missing twice at Wyoming on attempts of 29 and 39 yards. His 42-yarder midway through the fourth quarter against Bowling Green secured the 27-15 win.

Detmer was 5 for 6 as a freshman in 2011, making both of his tries from 50 yards or more. His superb range kept Wyoming honest two weeks ago when the Rockets executed a fake field goal on an apparent 47-yard attempt. Many teams right now in the MAC would be laughed at if they lined up for a field goal from that distance.

"It's such a huge part of the football game, and if you don't have that guy, boy, it can make life tough," Toledo coach Matt Campbell said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.



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