Kicking Pressure

Kicking extra points hasn't seemed so difficult in the past, but a few games into this season and it seems like every weekend there's a different kicker with his faced buried into the ground after botching an important kick. Florida State kicker <b>Xavier Beitia</b> and coach <b>Bobby Bowden</b> weigh-in on the issue and offer their opinions on what's gone wrong.

The memories of North Carolina have a certain sting for Florida State kicker Xavier Beitia.

It was within the confines of Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC, where Beitia's streak of extra points came to a close.

But since then Beitia has started another streak of point after success, and three weeks into the season kickers around the country are making that string of chip shots look more impressive than it has in the past.

There's Alexis Serna at Oregon St., who missed three extra points against LSU, one of which would have sent his game into a second overtime.

LSU's kicker Ryan Gaudet missed an early extra point against Auburn, which later came back to bite him when the Tigers snapped LSU's 11-game win streak with a 10-9 win. Jason Wilhoit from Tennessee found redemption with a 50-yard game winning field goal after missing moments earlier on the PAT.

So what's gotten all these kickers off on the wrong foot?

Beitia, who's fourth in school history with .968 PAT percentage, attributes most of the blunders to a mental lapse.

"Sometimes it's a lack of a good hold and a good snap, but most of the time it's a mental thing," he said."If you go up there and you're thinking it's an extra point than you are going to miss. I've never seen so many people miss them this early," Beitia said.

The trick, according to Beitia, is to approach the extra point with a different mindset than simply kicking a PAT. It's just as important to arm yourself mentally as it is to get set mechanically, trying to avoid thinking of the kick as routine.

"I try thinking that it's a 20-yard field goal," Beitia said.

How often does he run through this mental drill?

"Every time," he said.

The one instance Beitia says it's difficult to prepare is when the defense intercepts a pass or recovers a fumble and returns it for a touchdown. On those occasions, a kicker can find himself out of the game, rushing back to the field to tack on the extra point without enough time to set properly prep himself.

"When the defense gets an interception, I'll just be sitting there, not in the game, and then all of the sudden I have to kick," Beitia said.

When that happens he plays out the kick in his mind and focuses on making square contact with the ball.

"I just go out there and visualize a perfect kick," Beitia said. "My main thing with an extra point is to hit it solidly. In 20 yards it's tough for you to break down that much."

In his 28 years with Florida State, coach Bobby Bowden has watched it happen to his players before. He says there really isn't much that a coach can tell them except to look at film to see what they're doing wrong. He added that kickers mostly have to teach themselves to correct their mistakes.

"It's amazing it happens, we've had it happen to us so many times that we think we're the only ones it happens to. But it happens to other people as well and it happens in pro football as well. I don't know why a guy will hit 80 in a row and then pulls one left or right," Bowden said.

That's exactly the number that Beitia's longest PAT streak expired on when he had his fourth attempt of the game blocked against North Carolina at the start of the 2003 season.

"It's not as automatic as you think," said Beitia.

Since that block, Beitia has connected on 57 consecutive extra points.


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