Sanson's done — now it's Miller time
By MIKE CONNOLLY
Associate Sports Editor
Before Jim Sanson even stepped onto the field in the first quarter to try a 33-yard field goal, he had already missed.
The boos of the Irish fans destroyed his confidence. His five missed field goals in 1999 weighed on him. His two misses against Oklahoma — both from under 25 yards — hung in the back of his mind.
By the time he lined up for the field goal attempt that could be the last of his career, Sanson had already missed the last field goal of his career.
"I got booed going out there and I got booed coming back," Sanson said after the game. "I was losing either way, it didn't really matter. I am kind of disgusted right now.
"What I felt in the back of my mind was getting booed going out there," he continued. "But that's the usual here at Notre Dame. I have gotten used to that during my four years here."
Hey Jim, if you're disgusted, how do you think Irish fans have felt for the past four years?
For Sanson's career he has missed 40 percent of his field goals and is just 3-for-8 in 1999. Irish confidence in Sanson has eroded so much that the student section held up crossed fingers when he took the field.
Throughout his career, Irish fans have said a few extra Hail Mary's in the hope that somehow the Lady on the Dome can guide the ball through the uprights.
At just about every school in the country, you will find football fans praying for their kicker to make field goals.
At Notre Dame, however, fans have spent four years praying that Sanson will make an extra point.
Saturday's missed field goal, like every other missed field goal, was a good kick, according to Sanson.
"I thought I hit the ball well," he said. "It looked like it was going right through the middle but at the last second it just turned to the right."
Maybe Sanson is having a hard time understanding the concept of kicking field goals — if it doesn't go through the uprights, you didn't kick it well. It doesn't matter how good a kick starts or if it looks good on its way toward the goal posts.
In the past, Irish fans could only groan when Sanson missed a kick and then wait for him to come back out onto the field and miss another one. But after he missed two against Oklahoma and then another against Arizona State, head coach Bob Davie finally did the right thing and sent sophomore David Miller out to try the extra point following Bobby Brown's 42-yard touchdown catch.
And then an amazing thing happened: A Notre Dame kicker made a kick. Miller hit the ball well — and here's the really incredible part — it actually went through the uprights.
It wasn't one of Sanson's patented "good kicks gone bad" but instead the ball started off good, was good in the middle and finished off good by giving the Irish a point.
For the day, Miller was 6-for-7 on extra point tries. His only miss was not his fault. Arizona State's Junior Ioane burst through the line cleanly and blocked the kick. Miller had no chance.
Davie seemed satisfied with Miller's efforts after the game.
"I thought David got the football up extremely quick," he said. "I think that David Miller will probably be the kicker next week."
Irish fans can now breathe a sigh of relief, except for that one little word — probably. Unless freshman kicker Nick Setta has an absolutely incredible week in practice, who else but Miller is going to be the kicker next week?
"I am disappointed for Jim," Davie continued. "That doesn't mean it's over for Jim. It's a long season but Jim knew going in he had to be productive."
This doesn't mean it's over for Jim? Is Davie trying to tell us that Sanson might attempt another field goal this season?
When Miller assessed his situation, he gave the perfect reason why Sanson should never attempt another field goal for the Irish.
"This is big time football so if I am not getting the job done then they have to take me out," he said. "If you're not getting the job done at work, then you are going to get fired."
Davie often talks about how great Sanson perfroms in practice. He talks about charting field goals and comparing practice statistics. He constantly says that Sanson is winning the battle in practice. Sanson may win the battle in practice but he loses the war on the field.
Arizona State quarterback Ryan Kealy probably doesn't throw three interceptions in practice — but he did on Saturday.
"I have hit balls in practice with a snap and a hold and a rush so I figure, `Why can't I do it out there?'" Miller said about his confidence in kicking field goals against USC and the rest of the Notre Dame schedule.
That's a good question, David. Why don't you ask Sanson? He has made kicks in practice throughout his career — only to miss them when they matter.
But it doesn't matter what kicks Sanson missed in the past games or how many kicks he makes in future practices. Because now, it's Miller time.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Sports Stories for Monday, October 11, 1999