Sights rarely seen at a San Diego State football game:
A short quarterback . . . defense . . . a "0" on the scoreboard . . . Andy Trakas missing a conversion kick.
Or, for that matter, Andy Trakas missing any kick.
He is one of the most prolific kickers in Aztec history, as evidenced by his becoming SDSU's career scoring leader the other night.
He is one of the most consistent kickers in Aztec history, as evidenced by his 91 consecutive extra-point kicks through the third quarter of SDSU's season opener Sept. 8.
But as SDSU prepares to open Western Athletic Conference play Saturday at Air Force, in a game that could be decided by an extra point here or a field goal there, the feeling is uneasy.
Andy Trakas, the SDSU kicker who rarely misses, is suddenly attempting to get back on track.
Not that Trakas (pronounced TRACK-us) has been bad. He has made the only two field goals he has attempted this season. But his string of 91 conversion kicks in a row came to an end when he missed one against Cal State Long Beach. Then he missed another in the same game.
And against Pacific on Saturday, he missed another.
He made five against the Tigers, but this guy had not missed an extra point since 1989. Three misses in two games, and suddenly the extra point isn't automatic for the Aztecs.
"I'm not going to sit here and tell you it doesn't affect me, because it does," SDSU Coach Al Luginbill said. "No coach wants that.
"But he's kicking them hard. It's not like he's shanking it."
Said Trakas: "I was pretty mad, pretty upset. But it's all over and done. You can't think about stuff like that."
There are a couple of possible explanations. For one thing, the NCAA moved the width of the goal posts to 18 feet, 6 inches this season--the NFL's width--after it had been at 23-4 for 32 seasons. For another, Trakas is working with both a new long snapper and a new holder this season.
"Really, though, it's just my fault," Trakas said. "It's just a total lack of concentration."
Luginbill anticipated the NCAA rule change to narrower goal posts two years ago and had them moved in at the SDSU practice field. In practices, Trakas has been working with them since the spring of 1990.
That doesn't mean he is not bitter. The new rule is part of kicker genocide, Trakas explains.
"I've got a bet going that, in the next couple of years, we'll be kicking blindfolded," Trakas said. "So we'll see how that goes."
He shakes his head and grimaces.
"The argument was that there were too many short field goals," he said. "They wanted to make things more exciting."
He is backed up by a statement made by David Nelson, secretary-rules editor of the NCAA Football Rules Committee, in The NCAA News last month.
Short field goals and extra point kicks have become "about as exciting as watching a man ice fishing," said Nelson, dean of the College of Physical Education at the University of Deleware.
What can a kicker do?
"One of the PATs I missed would have been good last year," Trakas said. "But what the heck, you just adjust to the system."
That's what he discussed with several of his kicker friends during the summer. Trakas was an instructor at the All-American Kicking Camp in Thousand Oaks, and Quin Rodriguez, former USC kicker, just laughed about the rule change.
Two things about kickers--they take rule changes personally and they hold grudges.
"(Rodriguez) said he got out at just the right time," Trakas said. "Same with Brad (Daluiso, a former UCLA kicker who recently was cut by the Atlanta Falcons)."
And then there was Trakas' friend Alfredo Velasco, UCLA's kicker from 1986-1989.
"He was an All-American as a junior," Trakas said. "Then they took away the tee."
The beat goes on . . . only the names change.
As for the SDSU's new kicking personnel, Trakas said they are still getting their timing down. Thom Fletcher is the long snapper and Scott Oatsvall is the holder this season. Last year, Jason Bill snapped and Jimmy Raye held.
"It's just one of those things we're working through in practice," Trakas said. "A snapper and holder and kicker have to get into a rhythm. It just doesn't happen in two weeks."
It hasn't been an easy stretch for Trakas. Last season ended badly, when he made only two of five field goals in a 30-28 loss to Miami. Two were longer attempts, 47 and 54 yards, but one was a relatively short 38-yard try.
"You can't help but think of it, especially when it was the last game and especially when you meet people who don't really watch football and they think you're bad because (of one game)," Trakas said. "But it's dead history, as far as I'm concerned. They weren't exactly chip shots."
Besides, not much ruffles Trakas.
As for the 91 consecutive PATs, he said it was nice while it lasted but maybe he will concentrate better now that the string is broken.
"Nowdays, people keep count of how many times you sneeze," Trakas said. "I'm proud to have 91, but it's over and now I'm concerned with doing the best I can on my next kick, whether it is a kickoff, field goal or extra point."
He is not too impressed with his career scoring record either. His 207 career points surpassed the previous SDSU best of 204 held by running backs Paul Hewitt (1987-1988) and Art Preston (1949-1951).
"It's like another one of those sneeze bits," he said. "I never was one to look at records and statistics. I do what I have to do, work hard and try to help the team.
"But when something like that happens, it's extra special."
But now, there isn't a whole lot he can do except keep kicking and hope things get better. When he steps into Falcon Stadium and what should be a close game at the Air Force Academy Saturday, he said he will block out the misses. The bad thoughts will not gnaw at his mind like a worm through an apple.
He just needs to find the right groove, he said. Concentration and hard work are the keys.
Meanwhile, the Aztecs wait.
"Kickers run into situations like this, for whatever reason," Luginbill said. "I've never tried to figure it out. It's like a golfer who shoots a 70 one day and a 95 the next. There's a rhythm and a confidence that goes along with it.
"He's kicking the ball hard. He'll get it back."
SDSU Career Scoring Leaders
Player (Years) Points Andy Trakas (1989-1991) 207 Paul Hewitt (1987-1988) 204 Art Preston (1949-1951) 204 Kern Carson (1961-1963) 174 Gary Garrison (1964-1965) 174 John Hancock (1921-1924) 165 Elden Dilley (1924-1925; 1930-1931) 164 Casey Brown (1982-1985) 152 Norm Nygaard (1952-1954) 150 Tom Reynolds (1969-1971) 150