So, you were wondering how Michigan managed to get in this position, where every Saturday, every field goal attempt is an adventure?
One minute Troy Nienberg misses a chip shot. The next, Philip Brabbs nails a 44-yarder to beat Washington.
One minute, Nienberg has a kicked blocked by the Notre Dame front line. The next, Brabbs is called in to replace him.
Well, it turns out there is a logical explanation. Two of them, in fact.
Injuries to both of Adam Finley's knees. Take it away, coach Lloyd Carr.
"I have had some questions about our field goal kicking situation," Carr said. "When Adam Finley came here to Michigan, he was an outstanding field goal kicker. In fact, when we signed him I felt like he was the best kicker/punter in the nation. We were ecstatic to get him to come because he is a bright guy.
"Right after he signed with us, he had to have surgery on his right knee. And, then, he got here and injured his left knee. So, he has had to rehabilitate two knee injuries. As a result of that, when he came back last fall, he just did not feel comfortable at that time placekicking.
"As a result of that, after we signed him, the next year we did not recruit a field goal kicker. First of all, it would have been impossible to sign one with him here. I wanted to clarify that. I do not ever remember anyone punting as well in their first three games as a punter as Adam Finley has. He has been absolutely outstanding. I think he is going to have a great career."
Finley, a 6-foot-4, 206-pound sophomore, leads the Big Ten with a 45.2 yard punting average. In time, he could return to placekicking, though it is rare for anyone to pull that kind of double-duty in the Division I ranks.
"He would be OK in an emergency situation," Carr said of Finley kicking field goals. "If you are going to have knee surgery, as a kicker, it is probably better to have it on your kicking foot than your plant foot. He has had both. It is a lot of stress. I think at some point we could end up with him in an emergency situation. Next year we will deal with that as we go through it."
Said Finley: "Coming in, I was a really big fan of doing both. In the last year or so, I have really concentrated on punting. The coaches and I decided that would be best for the team. I put kicking on the back burner for a while. You want to keep up your skills. It is kind of like riding a bike. It comes back to you pretty quick. But like anything else, you have to practice a lot to prepare for game situations."
Finely said he once kicked a 51- or 52-yard field goal in high school. He is preparing now to kick one for the Wolverines -- of any length.
"You always have to be ready," Finley said. "It was a coaching decision (for him to become a backup placekicker). We talked and wanted to make sure that I was OK because it is higher stress on my knees. I've been practicing every day. They just wanted to get me into more live situations."
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