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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Football should be thankful for bye week

Tyler+Baker+%2F+The+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0ADuring+the+second+half+of+Arizonas+28-26+loss+to+USC+at+Arizona+Stadium+on+October+11th.
Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat During the second half of Arizona’s 28-26 loss to USC at Arizona Stadium on October 11th.

It wasn’t supposed to end like that.

All Arizona football needed was a chip shot, 36-yard field goal from the middle of the field by junior kicker Casey Skowron, who is 13-for-18 on field goals, 72.2 percent. Skowron already had gotten the Wildcats the ball back with another successful onside kick.But the field goal attempt sailed far right, reminding Arizona fans of their kicking struggles since Nick Folk went to the NFL in 2007.

Last year, Jake Smith was 12-for-19, 63.2 percent. John Bonano was 14-for-20 in 2012, 70 percent.

In 2011, three kickers combined to make 10, with Bonano doing the best at 8-for-12, 66.7 percent.

In 2010, Alex Zendejas was 14-for-19, 73.7 percent, better than Skowron, but he also missed two extra points to hand ASU a win over UA and is universally reviled by UA fans. In 2009, Zendejas was 17-for-22, 77.3 percent.

The last kicker of Skowron’s quality the Wildcats had was Jason Bondzio, who was 14-for-16, 87.5 percent, but Skowron has already successfully converted two onside kicks.

Skowron is also a perfect 24-for-24 on point after touchdown attempts, which aren’t automatic. Just ask Zendejas.

Skowron was all set to exorcise those demons and move the Wildcats closer to a chance at the College Football Playoff, but the football gods denied Arizona yet again. It was heartbreaking.

Worse, USC iced Skowron twice, and UA fans turned on him. This could be a huge moment in his career: Does he recover? Or is he ruined like Zendejas was after his ASU debacle?

Remember, Zendejas was a good kicker before he became public enemy number one.

Being a kicker is one of the hardest jobs in sports. They wait around the whole game — playing a dozen plays at the most — and are expected to save the game.

A blown field goal can split a locker room.

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones blamed kicker Mike Nugent, who missed a 36-yard field goal try as the game ended, for their 37-37 tie on Sunday.

“Everybody in here gets paid to do a job and that’s what everybody needs to do,” Jones said.

Arizona seems to support Skowron, but who knows what’s going on in the locker room.

“I told [Skowron] he was still my boy, and I still love him,” UA redshirt senior wide receiver Austin Hill said. “Kickers tend to feel that all the weight’s on them, when he should’ve never been in that situation in the first place.”

Arizona’s last bye week of the regular season comes at a great time, as they can use the time to recover from their psychological wounds and heal from their physical ones.

The Wildcats lost their first two running backs, and while junior reserve Jared Baker ran for 43 yards on 12 carries in relief, Arizona’s offense is elite — No. 6 in the nation in total offense — because both the run and pass are threats. And though he may not have played like it, quarterback Anu Solomon is still a redshirt freshman.

If the Wildcats had to play Washington State this week, sandwiched between games with Oregon, USC and UCLA and with all the damage from last week, it would have been a tough trip to the Palouse, and the script would’ve been obvious.

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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