Kicking Around the Key to the Game

If today's game between USC and Arizona State comes down to kicking, who knows what to expect?

Arizona State kicker Robert Nycz has made 102 of 103 extra points during his career, including 76 in a row, and is a solid field-goal kicker as well.

But last week against Washington, Nycz missed all three field goals he attempted, a startling lapse attributed in part to poor snaps and the blustery weather in Seattle.

The Trojans, by contrast, are used to holding their breath on field-goal attempts and even extra points. But kicker Adam Abrams was perfect against Nevada Las Vegas, making two field goals and three extra points after surviving a competition with Adam Rendon in practice.

"I'm not sure we'd been coaching this guy properly," said USC Coach John Robinson, who had seemed on the verge of changing kickers after Abrams missed field-goal and extra-point attempts the previous game. "Most of the time you don't say anything nasty to kickers. Last week, we all started yelling at him a little bit. 'Kick the ball!' "

One statistic worth noting: Arizona State has blocked a kick in five of the last seven games dating to last season.


USC scrapped its scheduled walk-through at Sun Devil Stadium on Friday when the Trojans arrived and found Arizona State still on the field at 4 p.m., USC's scheduled time. The team waited about 10 minutes and left in a bit of a huff. . . . Arizona State is the only Pac-10 team that leads its series against USC, with a 7-6 advantage after last season's 48-35 double-overtime victory. . . . Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was an assistant at Arizona State from 1992 to '95 and helped recruit tailback J.R. Redmond from Carson High. . . . USC receiver R. Jay Soward's brother Marcus, a cornerback for the Sun Devils last season, will be at the game to watch his brother. Backup quarterback Mike Van Raaphorst's brother, Jeff, will also be on hand. He was a record-setting quarterback for Arizona State from 1983 to '88 and is now a radio analyst on Sun Devil broadcasts.

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