When Andre Heidari's 42-yard field goal attempt sailed wide of the uprights in USC's eventual victory over Utah State on Saturday, it did not come as a surprise. That's because, since the beginning of the 2012 season, Heidari has slowly but steadily declined in accuracy and productivity, a fact that could be trouble for the Trojans as the season toils on.
Heidari's woes can be traced to the very beginning of the 2012 season, when he tore his meniscus in USC's season opener against Hawaii. Head coach Lane Kiffin never really discussed the injury, and after missing two weeks, Heidari was back on the field.
But he did not return like his old self.
In 2011, Heidari took the field 17 times for USC, and made 15 of those attempts, with longs of 47, 41, 46 and 50. He was trusted to tack on points for the Trojans, and he hardly disappointed. Since his injury however, his game has been noticeably off.
The kicker only recorded one field goal over 40 yards in 2012, on Sept. 22 against Cal, and has come up short from that distance in the year since. Against Utah State, Heidari's missed attempt could have come back to haunt the Trojans, had the USC defense not played lights-out once the offense stopped producing.
So far in 2013, he's made 57-percent of his attempts, though he has tied his career-long distance of 52 yards. It's early, but Heidari's inconsistency is troubling for USC, especially as the offense continues to go through growing pains.
Once USC begins facing tougher opponents—which starts with Arizona State on the road this coming weekend—it could find itself needing to rely on a kick from Heidari to tip the scales in the team's favor. As it stands now, he's not entirely reliable, which has a ripple effect: if he can't be trusted to come through in the clutch, Kiffin will likely opt to keep the offense on the field on fourth downs, if it's within reason. If that happens, Heidari could lose confidence in himself, which could then result in a further decline of his abilities.
Should he be called upon against the Sun Devils in USC's next match up, Heidari needs to show that he can indeed sail it through the uprights past 30 yards, and not just on rare occasion.
The Trojans have been on the bad end of games that came down to field goals a few times over the past few seasons; Heidari needs to prove that, if it comes down to the wire, he can be the determining factor in USC adding another dash to the win column, instead of being remembered for the team taking an L.