Originally created 11/17/00

Not getting their kicks



Clemson and South Carolina fans have no mutual interests as they pertain to following their respective programs, but common worries might be another issue.

As kickoff nears for Saturday's showdown at Death Valley (3:30 p.m., ABC-Channel 6), rest assured faithful of both schools are fretting about what might happen if their teams need a field goal at the end to win it.

They've put together memorable seasons -- the Tigers vaulted as high as No. 5 in the national rankings, and the Gamecocks earned bowl eligibility just months after snapping a 21-game losing streak -- but their field-goal struggles have been quite forgettable.

Here's a brief summary:

Wide left. Wide right. Short. Blocked.

In short, no good.

Ultimately, the team that needs a late-game field goal Saturday could be more prone to kicking the bucket than kicking the ball through the uprights.

The Tigers and Gamecocks have shot themselves in both left feet on chip shots this season, combining for 10 misses from 40 yards or closer.

At Clemson, place-kicker Aaron Hunt is 4-for-5 from 29 yards and in, but the freshman has missed 4 of 5 from between 30 and 39 yards.

"We've got a true freshman that hasn't got a lot of chances," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "We've been trying to take a little pressure off him, but I think he's going to be pretty good."

It's led Bowden to try his luck with trickery. The Tigers second-year coach figures faking the field goals sometimes is less of a crap shoot than kicking them.

The Tigers have converted a first down on two of their three fakes this season, which, given their struggles, isn't so bad.

"We're out of fakes," Bowden said of this week's game. "It'll be all kicks."

The faking phenomenon has caught on in Columbia, where coach Lou Holtz has ordered them in two of the Gamecocks past three games.

"We have had some problems in place kicking," Holtz said, "but our problems are not in practice. ... We don't kick as well in the game as what we do in practice."

If you hear the 63-year-old refer to his kicking rotation, don't assume he's losing his mind. The second-year South Carolina coach has used three kickers this season, and he doesn't rule out mining the school soccer team for talent before he's done.

The Gamecocks are 10-for-16 on field-goal tries, and Reid Bethea was 4 of 7 on attempts between 20 and 29 yards before he was benched after a missed extra point in an Oct. 14 win over Arkansas.

Daniel Weaver replaced Bethea for the next two games, but a missed 34-yarder proved crucial in a 17-14 loss to Tennessee.

Which brings us to Jason Corse, better known as kicker No. 3. The senior didn't attempt a field goal in last week's 41-21 loss at Florida, but was 3-for-3 on extra-point attempts.

Corse, who hadn't seen game action until Saturday, never figured his indoctrination to college football would come before more than 85,000 hostile fans at The Swamp in Gainesville, Fla.

"But you've got to keep an open mind," he said. "In a way, you've always got to be ready mentally even though someone else is ahead of you kicking."

Holtz said Corse is his guy Saturday, but Corse said hooking one could lead to a quick hook by Holtz.

"We've all just become kind of used to it, because sometimes you don't know who's kicking until game time," he said. "It's something you have to deal with."

South Carolina's field goals:

FGs made...10

FGs missed...6

Made inside 30...6

Missed inside 30...3

Made outside 30...4

Missed outside 30...3

Extra points made...27

Extra points missed...3

Field goals or extra points blocked...0

Total points scored by kickers...57

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645.

Staff writer Tim Morse contributed to this report.