Hall, Janikowski confident of kick-starting their teams

Two kickers take roads near, far to title game

January 05, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, Ariz. -- They come from different backgrounds. Tennessee kicker Jeff Hall grew up in Winchester, Tenn., hoping someday to play football for his beloved Volunteers. Florida State kicker Sebastian Janikowski grew up in Poland hoping to play for his country's national soccer team.

Last night, Hall and Janikowski found themselves on opposite sidelines at Sun Devil Stadium with the same mindset going into the Fiesta Bowl. Neither wanted college football's national championship to come down to a final field goal, but both were confident that they would be up to the task.

"I've never been in a championship game that's come down to a field goal, but I've been fortunate to have been in that situation before and come through," said Hall, who kicked game-winners in this season's first two games, a 27-yarder with no time left to beat Syracuse and a 41-yarder in overtime to beat Florida.

Janikowski has never kicked a game-winning field goal in his two seasons with the Seminoles, mostly because Florida State has not had many close games. But as a senior at Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, Fla., Janikow- ski kicked a 60-yarder with a couple of minutes left against Palatka High School.

In practice, Janikowski regularly booms 70-yard field goals. He knows Florida State coach Bobby Bowden won't let him go for one from that distance, but going beyond 60 is not outside the realm of possibility.

Told that Janikowski believes Bowden would let him kick up to a 64-yarder, the coach said, "That's awful wishful thinking on his part. It would have to be right before halftime or something like that."

Bowden then admitted that he might let Janikowski go "65 yards if it was the last play of the game and we needed it to win."

It has come down to that for Florida State kickers in the past. In 1991, Gerry Thomas missed the first infamous Wide Right kick that would have beaten Miami in Tallahassee. In 1992, Dan Mowrey missed the second Wide Right kick that would have tied the Hurricanes.

The next season, Scott Bentley made a 22-yarder with 21 seconds left to beat Nebraska, 18-16, in the 1994 Orange Bowl to give Bowden and the Seminoles their first national championship.

"I definitely want to follow Scott Bentley," said Janikowski, who is a sophomore like Bentley was that year.

Both kickers have been the models of consistency throughout their careers. Hall has been All-Southeastern Conference in each of his four seasons. Before last night, he had made 19 of 24 field goals and all 47 of his point-after attempts. Janikowski was All-Atlantic Coast Conference this season, having made 27 of 32 field goals and 42 of 43 extra points going into last night.

In the first half, both kickers struggled, Hall missing a 32-yard field-goal attempt and Janikowski bouncing an extra point off the crossbar out of a poor hold.

Janikowski's career as a kicker got off to an interesting start in high school.

In his first game at Seabreeze, the snapper inadvertently hiked a line drive past the holder and right into Janikowski's chest.

"I didn't know what to do, but my teammates were yelling `run,' " Janikowski recalled with a laugh. "I ran all the way into the end zone, about 20 yards."

What a Walla Walla story

If reserve quarterback Jared Jones ever becomes a star for Florida State, the story of his recruitment will become the stuff of legend around Tallahassee.

Jones, a freshman, does not come from the state of Florida, as do a significant number of Seminoles, or any bordering state. He doesn't come from Texas, where Bowden has been known to go for players.

He is from Washington state. Walla Walla to be exact.

"How I love to say it, Walla Walla, Washington," Bowden said during Sunday's news conference. "I love to say it, but it's hard to get there. First, you have to take a five-hour flight to Seattle. Then, you miss the puddle jumper connecting flight. And once you get there, you have to bum a ride to Walla Walla."

Which is exactly what happened to Bowden.

After missing his connecting flight, Bowden arrived after the rental car desk was out of cars. So he hitched a 47-mile ride with the person who rented the last car. Lucky the guy wasn't a Florida fan.

Raising Arizona

As a coach, Bowden is 4-0 at Sun Devil Stadium, with three wins over Arizona State and a victory over Nebraska in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. The 31-28 win over the Cornhuskers was the game that put the Seminoles on the map in terms of being a national power, starting a streak of 12 straight seasons with at least 10 wins.

"I love this town," he said.

Hometown loss

Fifth-year Volunteers senior Ron Green, a defensive tackle from Severna Park, suffered a strained knee in the first quarter and had to be helped off the field.

Green, who has a history of knee problems at Tennessee, was not expected to return to the game.

Pub Date: 1/05/99

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