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    Bowl season has been wild for kickers

    Several high-profile bowl games won, and lost, on field-goal attempts

    Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons powered his team’s win in the Sugar Bowl with a field goal in overtime.
    Dave Martin/AP
    Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons powered his team’s win in the Sugar Bowl with a field goal in overtime.

    NEW ORLEANS - The kick is . . .

    . . . wide right.

    . . . wide left.


    . . . blocked.

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    . . . good.

    The college football bowl season is only days away from finishing its 35-game journey with the BCS title game Monday night at the Superdome between No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 LSU, and we could put together any number of final calls.

    There is little to suggest that the finale will be much different from Alabama-LSU Part 1 Nov. 5, which was won by LSU, 9-6, with no touchdowns and three missed field goal attempts by Alabama’s Cade Foster.

    LSU’s Drew Alleman, on the other hand, connected on three field goals, including the winner in overtime.


    In many ways, it has been an agony-ecstasy bowl season. In Tuesday night’s Sugar Bowl, we saw the joy of Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons after his 37-yard field goal gave the Wolverines a 23-20 overtime win over Virginia Tech.

    But we also saw the disappointment and dismay of Justin Myer, the Hokies’ third-string kicker who booted four field goals in the game but missed a 37-yard attempt that would have sent the game into a second overtime.

    Chris Graythen/Getty Images
    Justin Myer had a lonely walk off the field after missing a kick in overtime.

    Myer, who was elevated after the first two kickers on the depth chart were suspended, expressed the feelings of all of his kicking brethren who come up short.

    “It’s real tough, senior year, to go out like this,’’ he said. “It’s tough to go out like that. It makes me feel horrible.’’

    We saw the excitement of Michigan State’s Dan Conroy, who kicked the winner from 28 yards in a 33-30 triple-overtime win over Georgia in Monday’s Outback Bowl.


    That was countered by Georgia’s Blair Walsh, the Southeastern Conference’s career leader in field goals, whose 47-yard attempt was blocked to end the game.

    In the Fiesta Bowl, a 22-yard field goal by Oklahoma State’s Quinn Sharp was the difference in a 41-38 overtime win over Stanford.

    Football is not only a game of inches, it is a game in which the “foot’’ has become more important than ever. The pressure often falls on kickers who are nothing more than teenagers - the tools of coaches getting paid millions of dollars to come up with daring, innovative game plans but turn more conservative than a Tea Party supporter when the outcome is on the line.

    How else to explain Michigan coach Brady Hoke calling what were basically three set-up plays rather than going for the end zone, so he could put in Gibbons to become either the goat or the hero?

    Or Georgia’s Mark Rich going conservative in overtime after Michigan State’s first possession ended with a turnover? When Walsh missed a longer-than-it-should-have-been 42 attempt in the first overtime, Michigan State had another opportunity. And Walsh was put in the goat/hero position.

    Look at Stanford coach David Shaw, who had Andrew Luck, perhaps the best quarterback in college football, ready to take apart a vulnerable and tired Oklahoma State defense, but also went conservative (running plays) in overtime and settled for field goal attempts.

    Even Shaw admitted the flaw in that theory after the game.

    “You can’t settle for field goals against good teams,’’ he said. “Whether you make field goals or miss them, good teams score touchdowns.’’

    Over the past few years, Boise State could certainly qualify as a good if not great team, yet it was a missed field goal attempt last season against Nevada and a missed one this season against TCU that cost it BCS bowl slots and perhaps the chance to win its first national championship.

    Which brings us back to Alabama and LSU.

    Alabama coach Nick Saban has compartmentalized his kickers. Foster gets the call on attempts longer than 40 yards, though he is 2 of 9 this season, including the three misses against LSU. Jeremy Shelley is much more reliable from inside 40 yards (16 of 18).

    Alleman has been more reliable for LSU, making 16 of 18 attempts this season, including 3 of 4 from beyond 40 yards.

    If the title game is anything close to a repeat of the regular-season meeting, it could be decided by a last-second field goal - perhaps from long range or in an overtime pressure situation with everything at stake.

    Mark Blaudschun can be reached at