It's time to question 'icing' the kicker


It's time to question 'icing' the kicker

"Im a man! Im 40! Ice Me!" Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State head coach

Ted Griggs

OK, Mike Gundy didnt actually say the last part of that quote -- but I wish he had.

Gundy, Oklahoma States head coach, gained national attention and became at Internet sensation in 2007 when he defended former starting quarterback Bobby Reid at a press conference after a critical column in The Oklahoman.

One of the things Gundy said about Reid was "Here's all that kid did: He goes to class! He's respectful to the media! He's respectful to the public! And he's a good kid. And he's not a professional athlete and he doesn't deserve to be kicked when he's down."

The same could be said about Stanfords placekicker, Jordan Williamson.

The redshirt freshman missed a 35-yard field goal as time expired that would have won yesterdays Fiesta Bowl for Stanford.

RELATED: Stanford suffers heartbreaking loss in Fiesta Bowl

As the 19-year old Williamson lined up for that kick, Gundy did what 99.9 percent of all college football head coaches would have done. He called a timeout to ice the kicker.

Icing the kicker is ploy to make him think a little longer about the stakes, to psych him out, to potentially give him what golfers call the yips. Is this really something a grown man getting paid hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of dollars should do to a 19-year old college student?

When I saw pictures of Oklahoma State fans and Gundy celebrating after Williamsons missed kick juxtaposed to shots of Williamsons tears (from which the ABCESPN cameras wisely and thankfully cut away), I instantly remembered Gundys 2007 speech where he went on to say, "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40! I'm not a kid. Write something about me, or our coaches. Don't write about a kid that does everything right, that's heart's broke ...

This isnt sour grapes, Oklahoma State won and Stanford lost, fair and square. There are scores of plays that go into a win or a loss. And to be fair, no one will ever know if Gundys timeout caused Williamson to miss the kick. Moreover, Gundy seems to be a very good man. He humbly gave Stanford credit after the Fiesta Bowl and dedicated the victory to the memory of the four members of the OSU athletic department who died in a plane crash this fall.

Gundy seems to have perspective. I just wish he -- and every college coach -- had more. Stanfords David Shaw also calls time outs to ice the kickers. He did it early in the season against lowly Duke and again before the Cowboys Quinn Sharp made a chip shot 22-yarder to win the game in overtime.

In fact, in the 2006 Orange Bowl, the two coaches who have won the most games in Division I college football history -- Florida States Bobby Bowden and Penn States Joe Paterno -- each successfully iced the other teams kickers. The Nittany Lions kicker missed an overtime field goal and Seminoles kicker missed not one, but two possible game-winners. The game ended with the two legends hugging and laughing about the missed kicks. Watching that, my stomach turned at the thought of two septuagenarian coaches playing head games with college kids, inducing failures that would perhaps haunt those players until they reached their 70s.

Of course, Bowden later had 12 of his 389 victories erased from the record due a minor scandal and Paterno is now embroiled in a major one. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.

Admittedly, theres probably no way to make a rule against icing the kicker. Coaches can claim they are taking the time out to set their defense for a possible block. I just wish all college coaches would let a kid make a kick or not without employing the head games. After all, it is just a game and coaches should have enough class to remember that kids real job is to go class.

This isnt the pros where at least failing kickers like Buffalos Scott Norwood (who infamously missed a game-winner at the end of Super Bowl XXV) get paid. Jordan Williamson is a 19-year old student. Yes, hes getting a scholarship at one of the most prestigious (and expensive) universities in the world, but few would want to trade places with him when Stanford resumes classes in a few weeks.

The brief shots of his anguished face at the end of the game left me with two thoughts: First, Im glad Williamson has those few weeks to put this behind him. And second, as for icing a college student-athlete -- no matter who does it -- Gundys final words as he stormed out of that 2007 press conference to applause are perhaps the most appropriate of all.

It makes me want to puke, he said as he slammed the door.

Ted Griggs is the vice president and general manager of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset


Cal fights USC into fourth quarter, can't complete the upset


BERKELEY -- Stephen Carr ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown two plays after Southern California's defense forced one of its six turnovers and the fifth-ranked Trojans won their 13th straight game, 30-20 over California on Saturday.

USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) has dominated the series with its in-state rival by winning 14 straight against the Golden Bears (3-1, 0-1), but this was one of the tightest matchups in years as the game was tied early in the fourth quarter.

Sam Darnold threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans but also had an interception and was under pressure for much of the day.

It was the defense that stepped up for USC, intercepting a pass from Ross Bowers in the first quarter to set up a field goal and then delivering the big play early in the fourth quarter after Chase McGrath gave the Trojans a 16-13 lead with his third field goal of the game.

Josh Fatu knocked the ball out of Bowers' hand and Uchenna Nwosu recovered the fumble at the 3. Carr ran it in two plays later from the 2 to make it 23-13.

Ykili Ross then intercepted Bowers' pass on the next possession, setting up Darnold's 4-yard TD pass to Deontay Burnett that put away the game.

Bowers finished 22 for 50 for 303 yards with one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles.


SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: The Trojans struggled for much of the game without starting RB Ronald Jones (ankle) and WR Steven Mitchell (groin) but managed to pull away late in their first road game of the season.

CALIFORNIA: The Bears used an improved defense to start 3-0 under first-year coach Justin Wilcox but this was supposed to be the test of how far they had come. Cal showed plenty by sticking with a national title contender for three quarters. A sequence on the opening drive of the second will haunt the Bears. Patrick Laird dropped a potential TD in the end zone and Matt Anderson then missed a 29-yard field goal that kept the game tied at 13.


A win against an unranked team should do little to alter USC's poll position.


SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 18 Washington State on Friday.

CALIFORNIA: Visits No. 24 Oregon on Saturday.

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find


From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.

"He does everything at a high level.”

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.

“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”

Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.

“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”

Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.

“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.

And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.

“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”

No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”

Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.

“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”

One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.

“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”

Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.

“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”