That may be overstating it a bit — send my apologies to South Carolina State’s Blake Erickson — but, well, not by much.
The only team in either the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference or the Southwestern Athletic Conference to hit every field goal attempt so far is winless Mississippi Valley State — probably because the Delta Devils have only tried three.
In fact, half of the MEAC schools are successful less than 35 percent of the time on three-pointers. The SWAC is slightly better, with only Alcorn State hitting below 35 percent of its field goals. But Jackson State — matching Delaware State, in the MEAC, for futility — is missing 25 percent of its gimme-extra points. Valley is whiffing on almost half of its kicks after touchdowns.
In all, there are only four teams in both conferences with a spotless record for point-after tries — Alabama A&M, Alabama State, Southern and Prairie View A&M. Even Erickson has shanked one.
Make no mistake. It’s ugly out there.
You have Jackson State kicker Reed Gallagher, missing two field goals against SWAC foe Texas Southern last week. JSU lost by three.
“We left six points on the field,” Jackson State coach Rick Comegy said. “Two field goals and we win the game.”
Then there’s Chance Wilson, once 6-for-6 on field goals for the SWAC’s Alabama A&M through the season’s first four games. He’s now missed his last three — most recently, a 21-yarder of last Saturday’s 21-14 loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“He pushed them during pregame warmups,” A&M coach Anthony Jones said. “I made him kick a few extra ones to get back in line, but there’s something wrong with his mechanics. We’ll get it figured out.”
Sure, there’s Erickson, just named MEAC place-kicker of the week after booting the game winner for South Carolina State last Saturday. (His 10th straight made-kick was the longest of his career.) And Delaware State freshman Mario Diaz-Aviles was also perfect against Morgan State on extra-point tries, while kicking a 32-yard field goal — his first of 2010 — to push the Hornets ahead 24-21 with 8:22 remaining. (You can’t blame him for the Bears’ amazing comeback.)
[Delaware State is moving forward with common-sense determination.]
Credit the SWAC’s Southern University, as well. The Jaguars have bounced back nicely after opening the season with their own lack of special-teams power — allowing a touchdown, turning the ball over on a muffed punt, or surrendering a blocked field goal in each of their first five contests.
In all, William Griswold had three attempts blocked over that span. In one memorable mishap against Mississippi Valley, he tried a 43-yard field goal, but the ball flew off his foot into the line of scrimmage. The Delta Devils’ Markkus Davis returned it for a touchdown, and Valley’s first points of the day.
“Five games in a row, we’ve lost that battle as far as I’m concerned,” Jaguars coach Stump Mitchell said, as October dawned. “And we have to better on special teams.”
Thing is, they have: Southern has crept up to No. 3 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference for made field goals (10-of-14 through last week), and is one of those tied for first in extra points.
But those teams, your South Carolina States and your Southerns, they are simply the exceptions that prove the rule. Trust me.
How about Ryan Estep, missing a game-tying extra point to send his Norfolk State team into a bitter 7-6 loss against Hampton in the Battle of the Bay game two weeks back?
Then there’s Bethune-Cookman kicker Sven Hurd, who began the year on a disastrous five-miss slide, making his team one of only five in the championship subdivision that had failed to make a single three-pointer all season.
He finally hit a 27-yard field goal last week against North Carolina Central. “The monkey,” said Hurd, a redshirt freshman, “was off my shoulders.”
Or it just jumped on to somebody else’s. Hurd has been sharing duties with Kory Kowalski, who (yes) missed a field goal last night as No. 12 Bethune-Cookman dismantled North Carolina A&T 67-17 in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game on ESPNU that was delayed during the first half when the lights went out.
[Will the expanded FCS playoff bracket benefit black college teams?]
Bethune coach Brian Jenkins counters that these struggles can come from issues not necessarily relating to a toe: “I’m not happy with our kickers right now and I’m not happy with our front guys for protection (on kicks),” Jenkins said, earlier this month. “That’s hindering us, and we need to get it corrected.”
The Wildcats, frontrunners though they may be, are dead last in the MEAC for field goals, with a .167 completion percentage.
Injuries have played a role, in some cases. Gallagher, for instance, took over at Jackson State when kicker Jabril Smith went down with a broken ankle. Perhaps unprepared for the new role, Gallagher then opened the year by going 3-of-9 for extra points, and has kept JSU at No. 9 in the overall rankings for PATs.
More often, however, you simply have a lack of talent at this level — driven, perhaps, by an inattention to the position in recruiting — that has become both glaring and more than a little comical.
Everybody makes fun of kickers, until you lose 7-6 in a regional rivalry game.