BYU kicker Justin Sorensen still still drives around Provo with a unicycle in his trunk, but he doesn't get to ride it as much as he would like. It has nothing to do with his ailing back, however.
"No, not at all," Sorensen told me Wednesday when I asked whether he had given up the rather odd hobby. "I haven't ridden it for awhile, just because of lack of time. But no, I still love it and do it whenever I can. I got one in my trunk."
Yes, Sorensen's back is still giving him fits, after offseason surgery kept him from participating in spring camp and for much of fall camp. He said he had an epidural shot on Monday because the pain has been flaring up again, and hopes the pain-killing injection is enough to get him through the rest of the season.
"I hope it is on the road to recovery," Sorensen said. "I think my disc is totally healed up. That nerve takes time [to heal]."
As every Cougar fan knows, BYU's kicking game has been an adventure this season, and it nearly cost the Cougars the game in that 6-3 win over Utah State last week. Sorensen had a 34-yard field goal attempt blocked, Riley Stephenson missed a PAT, and on 4th-and-9 from the 8, the Cougars unsuccessfully tried a fake field goal, perhaps because coach Bronco Mendenhall had lost faith in his kicking game.
"That was a nice call, wasn't it?" Mendenhall joked on Wednesday.
How soon will he try another?
"Not for awhile," he said.
Mendenhall said Monday that coaches have decided that Sorensen will now try all the kicks -- field goals and PATs -- jettisoning an earlier plan that called for Sorensen to attempt all kicks longer than 35 yards and Stephenson to take the shorter ones.
The coach and Sorensen both said that there's been an emphasis on kicking in practices this week.
"Yeah, we have a period dedicated to it now, during practice, which we haven't had yet this season, which is really nice. It is kind of back to the way it was," Sorensen said. "It is good to have consistent 10-12 reps at a time, from different hashes, with your holder."
Sorensen said his leg strength is still good and he believes the struggles are a thing of the past.
'Yeah, I feel like a lot of that is over. Everyone was in a really complicated situation, just with my back. You know, it was so week-to-week. I mean, am I going to be able to play? How many times can I kick? To start the season, they didn't know if I would even be back or not, and so they had Riley doing a lot of stuff -- kind of had everyone in a hard spot.
But I think they have got it to where it is pretty settled."
Indeed, Mendenhall said Sorensen has looked good in practice.
"He is banging them through. We will find out [if more reps helps]. We haven't had pads on most of the week, so we will find out if the protection is good. But he's kicking them through. So let's cross our fingers," Mendenhall said.
Lost in the madness of Sorensen's blocked 53-yard field goal attempt against Utah when Ute fans prematurely rushed the field and were penalized for it was the fact that Sorensen's former high school teammate at Bingham, Star Lotulelei, is the Ute who blocked the kick.
"From what I could see, yes [the kick was high enough]," Sorensen said. "Against Utah, Star got a pretty good push in there. He was about 3 1/2 yards into the backfield, and blocked it. Can you believe that? My own [high school] teammate, comes back to block your ball. I love Star, but he's so dang tall."
There was some talk that Sorensen would be asked to redshirt this year to give his back more time to heal.
"It really wasn't my decision. It was something they determined, and I am sure if my back would have continued to progress in a negative way, they would have used that. But I don't know," he said. "... It definitely would be nice to have time to heal, but I would never want to miss out on a season. It is a really exciting season, and we are going to finish really strong. Maybe at the end of the season I will look back and think differently. But right now, I wouldn't want to miss it. It is too fun."
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