In the grand scheme of life, five years is not a whole lot of time. It was just a half-decade ago that Thomas Weber was making just about every field goal he attempted for the Sun Devils. In 2007, he made 24 of his 25 field goal attempts (his lone miss from 32 yards didn't come until Week 10), an effort that earned him the Lou Groza Award as the nation's best kicker.
Ah, those were the days. The halcyon times when ASU lining up for a field goal didn't create an ulcer...
Since Weber's banner year, Sun Devil field goal kicking has been ugly. Very ugly. Weber would be the team's primary kicker for three more seasons before Alex Garoutte took over the job last year, and Bobby Wenzig and Jon Mora have also attempted kicks during this time. Regardless of who has lined up for the kick, it's been a struggle.
So what we see here is that beyond 29 yards, Sun Devil kickers are essentially a coin flip, making just 36 of 64 attempts from 30 yards and beyond. That's just 56.3%. 56.3%!
That's why this news following Tuesday's practice comes as no surprise:
"If we kicked today (Jon) Mora would be the guy" Todd Graham— William Boor (@wboor) October 9, 2012
For many Sun Devil fans, the move is long overdue. While Garoutte is a talented kicker with a strong leg, he simply hasn't shown to have the consistency on makeable kicks that is necessary at this level, whether it's his three costly misses in last season's defining loss to UCLA or his shank of a 21-yarder the next week against Washington State.
Those struggles made an impact on Garoutte.
"I kind of stayed away from the fan aspect. I didn't go on Facebook or anything because I knew I'd get it. I tried to stay away from the fan aspect just because I knew I had let a lot of people down."
Garoutte told me over the offseason how hard he had worked to improve his game, and that head coach Todd Graham had confidence in his ability.
"I feel like they have good confidence in me," Garoutte said. "They want the best guy out there. So far, they think it's me. I feel like they have good confidence in me. I've watched a lot of film they had last year at Pittsburgh. He's not afraid to try field goals. He kicks a lot, and I like that. He always tells me that I'm going to be the leading scorer in the country."
He held off newcomers Jon Mora and Dillon Jackson during fall camp to keep his job, and made his only attempt through the first three games—from 35 yards—against Illinois. Against Utah, he was solid, making three field goals and missing from 51. Yet, the concerns about him remained lurking in the consciousnesses of ASU fans.
The final straw seems to have been his misses from 39 and 30 yards during the last game against Cal (he also had a 37-yard attempt blocked). That re-opened the kicking competition over the bye week, and it seems that, for now, a change will be made.
Taking his place will be Mora—a junior who transferred from Pima Community College—to attempt to reverse this troubling trend. A brief look around the nation will tell you that the Sun Devils are far from alone in having great concerns with their kicking game, yet the fact remains that anytime they line up for a kick, uneasiness reigns.
Should these struggles continue, at what point does it affect the playcalling? Would trying a fourth and five have a better chance of success that kicking a 42-yarder in the fourth quarter of a close game? Maybe.
In the end, it's easy to forget these are 19 and 20-year old kids doing a very difficult task. Kicking a ball through the uprights from any distance, let alone in the face of a defensive rush and mental pressure, is a damn hard thing to do.
But it's also a thing they've been attempting to perfect for years, and the reason they've been brought into a Pac-12 program and given a chance. Missing from 50 yards is one thing. Missing frequently from under 45 like ASU has done, is simply not acceptable.
Since taking over, Graham has made it clear that he will play the best players. Period. End of story. At kicker, that was Garoutte, and now it's not. It's now Jon Mora.
Until it's not.