By Tom Knauer
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
With time winding down in Saturday's game against Wisconsin, Arizona's Nick Folk made his final warm-ups on the Badgers' 30-yard line. It was fourth-and-15, and the offense had failed to give Folk a closer shot.
A 47-yard field goal was all that separated the Wildcats from their second win over a ranked opponent in five seasons.
With that in mind, the sophomore watched the snap leap into the hands of holder Danny Baugher.
It was high, making the kick all the more difficult on a shredded, rain-soaked field.
With the game potentially on the line, the kicker with only two career conversions hurried forward. His foot made contact, and the ball appeared to have the distance.
With both teams fixated on the ensuing trajectory, the kick fluttered just beyond the end zone.
The hopes of a soggy throng in attendance were dashed, and Arizona was left with yet another missed opportunity.
Afterward, Folk sulked to the sideline, amid rancorous booing. Drops of water trickled down his face, and no one could be sure of their origin. All anyone knew for certain was that this had to be a joke, a jovial prank pulled by the gods of the gridiron.
Surely, after Wisconsin's Mike Allen had shanked an extra point and later the kickoff that began the Wildcats' final drive, some sort of respite was in order. Something was going to fix what had already been ruined, replace what had just been destroyed.
Whatever it was, it didn't come. The Badgers took successive knees, and the scoreboard reminded the few naysayers still present of the outcome.
Today is Tuesday. A full two days following the game, some fans still can't believe what happened. They think of Folk's kick, and it reminds them of similar infamous miscues in recent history.
Super Bowl XXV. The New York Giants lead 20-19, and the Bills' Scott Norwood misses (guess what) a 47-yarder for the win. Buffalo loses its first of four straight Bowls.
NFC Championship Game, 1998. Minnesota's Gary Anderson misses a 38-yarder with 2:07 left in regulation and the score stuck at 28. Atlanta's Morten Andersen kicks the game-winner in overtime, and the Falcons head to their first Big Game.
The obvious question becomes: Is Nick Folk our Scott Norwood? Is he the Gary Anderson-clone who let an entire program down when it needed him most?
Good God, no.
Let's remember a few things about Folk. First, his miss was only the seventh field goal he's ever attempted in college. That includes the career-high 35-yarder he booted against Utah.
Second, where was the Wildcat offense before all of this? Three no-gains and an off sides penalty when your kicker clearly needs some room to operate? Why not give Steve Fleming another call? After all, the tight end's 23-yard reception put Arizona where it was to begin with.
But let's not start second-guessing, shall we? Let's say Folk had made the kick.
With 43 seconds on the clock, Wisconsin would have had ample opportunity to reach the red zone.
A few tosses to the left for Booker Stanley might have done it. He had already amassed over a hundred yards rushing with the help of that play, becoming the third runner to do so against Arizona in three games this season.
How about a long loft to Jonathan Orr? The receiver had only one catch in the game and clearly his legs were fresh. Orr was Lee Evans' right-hand man last year, and he is expected to fill in for the former Badger turned NFLer.
One blown play in the secondary - which had enough lapses of its own already - and perhaps Allen and the Badgers would have truly dismantled our dreams of an upset.
As it was, few people saw Folk's miss as what it really is: an unfortunate, avoidable mistake. Neither his teammates nor any of the thousands watching should forget that.
Tom Knauer is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.