Demos' shoulders are getting heavy

    Demos sounds like the name of a Greek God. However, the only thing that Northwestern’s kicker is worthy of being patron saint of right now is missed kicks.

    Last year’s Outback Bowl was a bitter ending to a great year for the Wildcats. A lot of the blame fell on Stefan Demos’ shoulders. There he missed three field goals (one called back on a penalty) and had an extra point blocked in what ended up as a 38-35 overtime loss to Auburn.

    Despite his struggles, the fifth-year senior was one of 30 kickers to be placed on the Lou Groza Award Watch List prior to the 2010 season. The award is given at the end of each season to the nation’s best kicker.

    Wildcat fans are scratching their heads after watching Demos miss three extra points in the team’s first five games this season. The tide is turning against him after missing two field goals in NU’s first loss of the season last Saturday.

    In that game, Demos missed two field goals that would have tied the Wildcats with Purdue, and boos cascaded down the stands at Ryan Field. The student section, full at the beginning of the game, cleared out as the ‘Cats were on their way to a loss against an injury-plagued Purdue team. Obscenities including the kicker’s name were shouted along Central Street as fans made their way home early.

    Though his stats may say otherwise, Demos insists that he’s not struggling. He attributes the misses to “a couple technical, mechanical issues that we’re working on.”

    Demos presents an interesting dichotomy to fans that was on display in Northwestern’s win in Minneapolis two weeks ago. At Minnesota, Demos missed an extra point that would have tied the game, but later made a game-winning 27-yard field goal with a little over two minutes left. The kick was his third game winner in two years.

    His troubles have come during the first year he hasn’t handled all kicking duties. Redshirt freshman Brandon Williams was named the Wildcats’ starting punter at the beginning of the season. One would think that Demos would have more success when only having to focus on field goals and kickoffs. However, changes in game-day habits may have affected his game.

    “I’m used to always doing something and staying warm [during games],” Demos says, “so I just have to do a better job of staying active on the sidelines and getting ready.”

    Kickers are interesting creatures. So much of their performance is based on what’s going on between their ears rather than between the sidelines. It’s anybody’s guess as to what is happening in Demos’ head right now, but it’s definitely not helping his on-field execution.

    To be clear, Demos hasn’t lost Northwestern any games this year. Judgmental fans will be quick to blame Northwestern’s loss to Purdue on him without giving any attention to a porous defense and an offense that continually tried to run the ball without any success. That game shouldn’t have come down to Demos’ left leg.

    As Northwestern enters the toughest part of its schedule, Demos could play a much larger role in determining the outcome of games. If his struggles continue, he’ll be kicking the collective heart of Northwestern’s fan base.


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