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Kickers could once again play big role in Florida State-Miami showdown

By Matt Porter - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo already knows the history. Like his Miami counterpart, Matt Goudis, he can’t escape the constant reminders this week.

Though the No. 3 Seminoles (7-0, 5-0 in the ACC) are a heavy favorite in the latest edition of the intense in-state rivalry, few would be stunned to see the No. 7 Hurricanes (7-0, 3-0 ACC) hang tight for four quarters. It’s expected the Seminoles will pull away, but there remains a chance the game could come down to …

“Missed it to the right!” — ABC’s Keith Jackson, 1991

That was the call after Gerry Thomas’ foot fault gave Miami a 17-16 win in 1991, keeping UM’s national championship hopes alive. It was the first time a Florida State kicker missed a winning try in the final minute against Miami, but not the last.

The next year, Dan Mowery missed a tying 39-yarder wide right in a 19-16 Hurricanes win. In 2000, walk-on Matt Munyon missed from 49 yards, wide right again, in a 27-24 loss.

Xavier Beitia missed crucial tries in the 2002 and in the 2004 Orange Bowl — one left, one right — making it five games in 12 years Florida State lost to Miami due to a late missed field goal.

Neither Goudis nor Aguayo, each in their first year as full-time kicker, has worked under that kind of pressure. But heading into this week’s marquee matchup (8 p.m. Saturday, ABC) each believes he’s able to handle it.

“That was in the past,” said Aguayo, who grew up a Seminoles fan and says he cried into his jersey after Beitia missed in 2004. “It’s different. I don’t think about that stuff.”

Nothing has bothered Aguayo this year. The resident of Mascotte, near Orlando, has not missed in 10 field goal tries and 48 point-after attempts. He broke Dustin Hopkins’ previous school record of 54 consecutive kicks made. While Florida State knows what it has, Miami’s kicking game has been less reliable.

Goudis, a sophomore from Los Angeles, is 6-of-9 with misses from 23, 40 and 43 yards. Like Aguayo, his longest make is 45 yards.

“All they see is good or no good. They don’t see how good of a kick it may have been or barely missed by,” Goudis said. “I still have confidence in myself. I’m ready for this week. I’m excited.”

Miami players and coach Al Golden have professed their confidence as well.

“Not too many factors shake him,” said punter and holder Pat O’Donnell, a Palm Beach Central High alum. “Most people think kickers are head-cases, but he’s a pretty normal kid.”

Like Aguayo, Goudis said it’s best for his team if he’s not relied on.

“That’s the funny thing about kicking,” he said. “Pat only comes in when we fail on offense, and I only come in when we fail in the red zone. Obviously we want to play, but if I kick seven extra points, I’ll be the happiest kid.”

Legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden, famously tormented by those Wide Rights and Lefts, brings up national championships first when asked about Miami-Florida State.

Between the Hurricanes (five), the Seminoles (two) and the Florida Gators (three), the Sunshine State boasts 10 titles in the last 30 years. “Florida is where football was,” Bowden reminisced. “That’s the way it was back then.”

It didn’t take him long to change the subject to …

“If (FSU coach) Jimbo (Fisher) was playing Miami, I would say, ‘Jimbo, have a talk with your kicker,’” Bowden said. “Tell him where that goalpost is. Tell him to stay away with that bar over there on the right.”

Fisher, however, said that conversation isn’t needed.

“It’s just another game,” he said. “Put your foot in the ground, use your fundamentals, hit it where you’re supposed to hit it.”

Bowden, for the record, is impressed with Aguayo. He wishes he had a kicker like that in the old days.

“He hasn’t missed a dang one,” Bowden said.

Post staff writer Tom D’Angelo and correspondent Bob Ferrante contributed to this report.

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