National analysis

2 kickers' opening acts result in bitter endings

Oregon State's Serna, Northwestern's Huffman falter with game on line

College Football

September 06, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Place-kickers Anonymous, a support group that includes the likes of Scott (Wide Right) Norwood of the Buffalo Bills and a legion of errant kickers from Florida State among its lifetime members, might need a couple of extra chairs at this week's meeting for Oregon State's Alexis Serna and Northwestern's Brian Huffman.

Serna, a second-year freshman, had a chance to beat defending co-national champion LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday night. He made his first career field goal - a 40-yarder in the second quarter - but Serna missed all three of his extra-point attempts. The third ended a 22-21 loss in overtime for the Beavers against the then-No. 4 Tigers.

"I don't think you can tell him anything," Oregon State coach Mike Riley, who tried to call a timeout before the kick, said of Serna. "He feels bad. He worked hard like the rest of us, and we chose him to be our kicker. It didn't work out, but he'll come back."

Serna, a former high school soccer player in Fontana, Calif., had recently beaten out junior John Dailey for the job left vacant by the departure of Kirk Yliniemi, who converted 96 of 98 extra-point attempts during his career in Corvallis, Ore.

Riley didn't make Serna available to the media after the game, but the kicker's teammates came to his defense.

"It's not one guy," said linebacker Jonathan Pollard. "He had a tough day, but it shouldn't have come down to that."

Serna, a walk-on, might want to get in touch with Northwestern's Huffman, a senior who, after making five of seven in a reserve role last year, missed five of six field-goal attempts in a wild 48-45 double-overtime loss to Texas Christian on Thursday.

Huffman, who is also the team's punter, missed a 25-yard attempt in the first overtime and got a second chance when a 25-yard attempt by his Horned Frogs' counterpart, Peter LoCoco, was blocked. Huffman then missed a 38-yarder after LoCoco's 47-yard field goal had given TCU the lead.

Northwestern coach Randy Walker said after the game that Huffman would remain the team's No. 1 kicker.

"It's going to be easy for everybody to blame one guy," said Walker, whose team went its first four games last year without a successful field goal. "He just stands there alone. That's the toughest part of his job."

Said Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez, who set a school record with 513 yards passing: "A great team doesn't let their kicker go out there and get three. They put it in the end zone."

ACC's wakeup call

Miami and Florida State won't get to kick off their seasons tonight as South Florida cleans up after Hurricane Frances, but Clemson and Wake Forest did a pretty good job as the Atlantic Coast Conference's opening act for the 2004 season Saturday in South Carolina.

The unranked Demon Deacons, following the tone set last week by Virginia Tech against No. 1 Southern California, strengthened the ACC's case of being college football's top league in a 37-30 overtime loss to the then-No. 15 Tigers.

"It really hurts to be that close and to know how good of a team we were," Wake Forest linebacker Brad White said. "We didn't win, but in my opinion, I thought we were the best team on the field today."

The ACC also showed that some of its bottom-feeders have a ways to go. Duke's best chance for a victory in September ended in a 27-12 loss at Navy on Saturday night. The Blue Devils likely will not get another until they play The Citadel on Oct. 2.

Heisman pose

Every season it seems that a player whose name hasn't been mentioned for the Heisman Trophy makes the first big splash. West Virginia tailback Kay-Jay Harris created his own tsunami Saturday with a career performance against East Carolina.

Setting both a school and Big East record with 337 yards and four touchdowns in a 56-23 win by the No. 10 Mountaineers, Harris put preseason favorites such as Southern California's Matt Leinart and reigning Heisman winner Jason White of Oklahoma on notice.

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez thought Harris could have gained even more yardage than he did. Harris sat out nearly the last 10 minutes of the game.

"He made some nice reads, but he missed some, too," Rodriguez said. "We felt we had 100 more yards out there rushing if everything went the right way. We think he can play even better. But I don't know if he'll have that many opportunities again."

Harris said his team's offensive line made it easy for him against the Pirates.

"The first person I ever saw was the safety - every time," Harris said.

The Associated Press and other news organizations contributed to this article.

Scores, schedule

Yesterday

Top 25

No. 14 Tenn. 42, UNLV 17 No. 25 Purdue 51, Syracuse 0

East

Merrimack 37, Mass.-Dartmouth 13

South

Louisville 28, Kentucky 0 N.C. A&T 16, N.C. Central 15

Southwest

Rice 10, Houston 7

West

Fresno St. 35, Washington 16

Saturday

State

Maryland 23, N. Illinois 20

Navy 27, Duke 12

Morgan St. 41, Bowie St. 35

Johns Hopkins 34, Rochester 17

McDaniel 14, Bridgewater 11

Salisbury 31, Catholic 14

Towson 34, Elon 13

Top 25

No. 2 Okla. 40, Bowling Green 24

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