When Alabama lost the first round to LSU, it was accepted that many players and coaches made their fair share of mistakes, but Cade Foster stood alone to face the severe, pointed backlash. Will he rebound from it?
It's a typical occurrence. Fans may quickly forget an interception, a missed tackle or a blown coverage. Missed kicks, however, stick out like sore, gangrenous thumbs. Make it three missed kicks, and it's engraved in stone.
That's how many kicks Cade Foster missed. The two missed in regulation would have been game-winners, with the third in overtime being a potential game-winner.
That's something tough to come away from.
Former Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman knows all too well after he missed two game-winning field goals against Nevada in 2010. The loss sent Boise State to the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas instead of something more desirable, such as the Rose Bowl.
The heat Brotzman suffered was much worse, and included death-threats by deranged fans, which was ridiculous as Brotzman have a full career's worth of success.
It was a strange situation, too. Some blame Nick Saban and the coaches for putting Foster into that situation where he was expected to make long kicks. It's a mostly unfounded argument.
Nick Saban doesn't put a player in a situation unless he's certain they player can contribute. That is why you often see freshman take the field and play like champions. Barrett Jones, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Dont'a Hightower, Rolando McClain and C.J. Mosley may be some familiar names that took the field as inexperienced freshman.
The coach puts the guys out there that he knows can succeed. If he has any doubts about a player, they ride the bench. I've lost count of how many former four and five-star players the Tide has that have been career benchwarmers thus far.
Saban had faith in Foster. He had a good freshman campaign, after all. He had a 65.19 kickoff average with 10 touchbacks, went seven-for-seven on extra points and made seven of nine field goals, all of which were 40 yards or more. He was also a tackling machine on special teams to boot.
Cade Foster was my favorite Tide player in 2010. I don't recall the game, nor the announcer, but someone said, "Kind of beefy for a kicker," when Foster took the field at one point during the season. I got a real kick out of that. Pun intended.
His 2011 season was far less impressive, even before the LSU game. That likely played a part in the backlash, as fans had grown weary of hearing announcers say, "It's a short kickoff" every time Foster kicked the ball, knowing he was capable of more.
It's true that Saban may have hurt Foster's confidence when he had the "short-range kicker" Jeremy Shelley attempt a long field goal against LSU (which was blocked), and he likely hurt Foster's confidence even more by offering a scholarship to a highly touted 2012-class kicker, Adam Griffith.
It would seem that Saban's confidence in Foster has been drastically decreasing. That makes it crunch time for Cade Foster.
He suffered one of the worst backlashes in Crimson Tide history, temporarily rivaling that of of the Antonio Langham incident. I say temporarily because Foster's situation cooled down quickly, as the arrogant fools (myself included) realized it was wrong to place so much blame on Foster.
Foster may have realized this as well. He was offered a scholarship by one of the most storied programs in history, and arguably the best in this current era. That is a testament to his abilities.
Should he acknowledge himself worthy of playing for Alabama—and he is—he will redeem himself.
Whether it is a game-winning field goal in overtime, or a few touchbacks in a game against a dangerous return man where field position is critical, Cade Foster needs to rise to the occasion.
He can do it. It doesn't matter who thinks he can or can't except for himself. Kickers don't have the luxury of second chances. They must go one-for-one, and they need to believe in themselves more than anyone else.
He wears a crimson jersey, and come January 9th I expect him to wear it well.