It”s no secret that special teams play a huge role in the outcome of college football games.

Paul Wong
Northwestern kicker David Wasielewski put Northwestern ahead for good in the final seconds of last Saturday”s game against Michigan State. The Spartans missed two extra points in the fourth quarter.<br><br>AP PHOTO

But for anyone that wasn”t convinced, this past weekend gave quite a bit of proof.

In two games this weekend Michigan State-Northwestern and Purdue-Minnesota the kicking game had as much to do with the outcome as any other facet of play.

In Evanston, Michigan State returned two kicks for touchdowns to make the game competitive, but missed two extra points, leaving the Wildcats with an opportunity to win on a last-second field goal.

Likewise, Purdue kicked a game-tying last-second field goal as the clock ran out in Minneapolis. The Gophers, who missed two short kicks earlier in the game, lost in overtime.

“I don”t know any coach that doesn”t stress the importance of kicking games,” said Minnesota coach Glen Mason during the Big Ten”s weekly football teleconference. “What you always talk about is that in close ballgames, normally the kicking game is what decides it. When you look at the fact that they made a last-second field goal and we missed two chip-shot field goals that would have been the difference.”

If the Spartans converted on just one of the two blown point-after opportunities, they would have been able to avoid the one-point loss.

“We”ve had some problems the last couple of years in our kicking game and I thought maybe we had it resolved, but obviously we didn”t,” Michigan State coach Bobby Williams said. “Special teams will always be a big part of the game. Obviously it played a big part in our game last weekend, when we lost points that we could have produced in that game.”

Northwestern coach Randy Walker knows that his team was fortunate to pull out the win that should have gone the Spartans” way.

“We”re very fortunate to somehow come away with the win in spite of it,” he said. “We did give up some plays that need to be addressed.”

Not giving up: After last year”s game against Michigan, Illinois coach Ron Turner was hopping mad about poor officiating, which he felt cost his team the game. This year, he had no particular problems, but he”s not yet dropping his hope that college football will institute instant replay.

“I definitely think instant replay should be in,” Turner said. “I think with modern technology, if you can let the players decide the outcomes of the games and let the teams decide, that”s what should happen. If we have the technology to do it we should take advantage of it.”

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