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Getting off on the wrong foot

Dane Prewitt was a stark contrast to the other Miami Hurricanes after UM's 19-16 win Saturday over Florida State.

While most Hurricanes talked big, celebrated and declared themselves college football's best, Prewitt sullenly responded to a personal inquisition.

What's the matter with your kicking? How's your confidence? Can you get better?

The only difference between Prewitt and FSU's Dan Mowrey was that he could say UM won in spite of his misses.

"I was terrible," said Prewitt. "A college kicker shouldn't miss kicks like I have. I've never kicked like this in my life."

The 19-year-old redshirt freshman is struggling to fill the shoes left empty by Carlos Huerta's graduation. Huerta was almost automatic from anywhere within 60 yards and finished as the No.

2 all-time scorer in NCAA history. He hit an NCAA-record 157 consecutive extra points.

Prewitt? After making two of three field goals in the first two games, Prewitt missed from 28 and 37 yards against Arizona. His first attempt against FSU from 44 yards was blocked, then he missed a 22-yarder in the third quarter. His only success in the last two games came from 24 yards.

By the fourth quarter, the confidence of Prewitt and his teammates was shaken. The Hurricanes were penalized for excessive celebrating after Lamar Thomas' touchdown made it 16-16. The officials debated whether they would penalize 15 yards on the extra-point attempt or the kickoff. The discussion lasted almost five minutes before they decided on the kickoff.

"I'm sure a lot of people thought I would miss if they backed me up," said Prewitt. "I felt I would make it, but if the other guys didn't, I can't blame them."

Prewitt's struggle is something the other Hurricanes aren't familiar with. UM's streak of good kickers stretches back to 1978. Danny Miller, Jeff Davis, Greg Cox and Huerta were sure things.

"Kickers are different; you don't talk to them much. They do their own thing," said cornerback Ryan McNeil. "Carlos was really different, so you rarely talked to him. You might say, "Nice kick.' That was about it.

"I don't know what to say to Dane. It's not like he's trying to miss."

But the doubts, like storm clouds, are forming. The Hurricanes face another tough game where a kick could decide the outcome when they travel to Penn State this week.

"Until Dane makes a couple of big ones, there will always be doubts," said special-teams coach Dave Arnold.

The Hurricanes' options are few. Prewitt is the only kicker they recruited. The others are walk-ons. Coach Dennis Erickson has resisted the urge to make a switch, so far.

"It hasn't hurt us yet," said Erickson. "I think he's a good kicker, but he's on a bad streak right now."

The problems can be remedied, according to Prewitt.

"I know what I did," said Prewitt. "My concentration wasn't there. I didn't hit it all the way through, and it went wide. I knew as soon as I hit it."

Prewitt couldn't explain his concentration problems in a game like Miami-Florida State.

"It shouldn't happen, but it did," said Prewitt.

Prewitt's track record didn't suggest problems. He was an all-state kicker-punter at Birmingham (Ala.) Hewitt-Trussville. He connected on 19 of 26 field-goal attempts as a senior, including eight from beyond 47 yards.

"I'm a good kicker; people might not believe that, but I am," said Prewitt. "I just want the chance now to kick a big one so I can prove it."

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