Last week, UCLA Football landed a commitment from one of the top kickers in the nation, J.J. Molson. While Bruin fans rejoiced, it also brought up a lot of old feelings and harsh criticism about UCLA’s current kicker, senior-to-be Ka’Imi Fairbairn.
While it is understandable that some fans were disappointed with Fairbairn’s performance in a few games (which I will get to) and it is also unfair and unreasonable and I am here to say GET OFF HIS BACK!
The truth is that Fairbairn has been a very solid kicker for the Bruins and although a few games hinged on whether he could get the ball through the the uprights, the fact of the matter is that the rest of the team needed to do more to not put Fairbairn in that position.
The Dreaded Utah Game
UCLA football had one of their worst games of the season against the Utah Utes yet the only thing that is remembered of that game is the fact that Fairbairn missed a crucial field goal attempt. He had to go for a 55-yarder, but Utah ran into him which gave the Bruins five extra yards. Unfortunately, Fairbairn missed the follow-up 50-yard attempt.
First off, 50-yard field goal attempts are incredibly hard to pull off. To expect Fairbairn to nail that kick with time winding down is a bit much and frankly unjustified.
Secondly, and I am trying not to play the blame game, UCLA allowed 10 sacks on Brett Hundley, gave back-up Utah quarterback Kendal Thompson a chance to make 10 of 13 pass attempts (with 83 yards rushing) and let RB Devontae Booker run for 156 yards and a touchdown.
Clearly the loss to Utah was not Fairbairn’s fault. It was a collective effort.
Fairbairn Is Statistically Awesome
That is right, Ka’Imi Fairbairn was one of the top kickers in the nation last year. He made 18 of 22 attempts (82%) in 2014 and currently has a streak of 29 straight field goals from 35 yards or shorter. He even finished the season making 13 of his last 14 attempts.
Fairbairn even made field goals from 47, 46, 44 and 42 yards last year so it is possible for him to boot the ball from a distance, though fans have to realize, like everyone on the team, he has limits. Sure it would be great to see him make 50-yard attempts consistently, but that is tough for any kicker.
(Statistics taken from UCLABruins.com)
His Last Year With UCLA Football
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- UCLA vs. Utah: Location, time, prediction, and more
- UCLA Football: An analysis and more of the defense
- UCLA vs. North Carolina Central: Location, time, prediction, and more
- UCLA Football: Three first half takeaways against SDSU
Fairbairn will be a senior this fall. He will be smarter, have more experience and be better conditioned. With all that happened last season, you can guarantee that Fairbairn will try to improve his game and work on those last second kicks, but hopefully, as a team, those opportunities are less than what they were last season.
Aside from the Utah game, it is not as if Fairbairn cannot handle the pressure. If you recall, in his freshman season in the game at Arizona State, with time winding down, Fairbairn hit a 33-yard field goal with time expiring to win the game for UCLA, 45-43. It is possible for him to be clutch, but to expect him to nail a 50-yard attempt and then tear him down for not making said kick is ridiculous.
Like you and me, he is human. He will make mistakes. But next season, expect those mistakes to be few and far between.