BYU Place Kicker Justin Sorensen: A Sophomore Slouch or Success?

Fresh off his two-year church mission to Macon, Georgia, Brigham Young Cougars place kicker Justin Sorensen was one of several sophomores being counted on by coaches and fans to make the 2011 season special. The unicycle riding high school all-American was highly touted for kicking 60-yard field goals.

Sorensen ended 2011 without a single 50-yard field goal and he missed five of his last eight field goal attempts. Many felt Sorensen belonged in the group of sophomore slouches. A closer look at Sorensen’s play suggests he belongs with Kyle Van Noy in the group of sophomore successes.

Anyone who listened to Greg Wrubell or read his Cougar Tracks blog during the last month of the season is well aware that Sorensen finished the season a perfect 48 of 48 on point after touchdown (PAT) kicks, and that this feat has only been achieved two other times in BYU history. Unbeknownst to most people, however, is that Sorensen finished in the BYU all-time top 10 for three major statistical categories. His 93 points scored this season are 5th all-time among kickers, and 9th all-time overall. His 15 field goals made are 8th most in school history, and his 25 field goal attempts are 5th.

Sorensen’s 60% success rate is far from being in the top 10, which is the root of the argument against Sorensen. He started the season making nine of eleven attempts (81%). At Oregon State, Sorensen missed 50 and 53-yard field goal attempts (the 53-yard attempt would have tied for second longest in school history), but made a 33-yard kick. His next field goal attempt was good from 42 yards away against TCU.

At the end of the first half against TCU, Sorensen missed a 50-yard field goal attempt that was rushed due to a communication breakdown by the BYU coaching staff. In the rushed attempt, Sorensen slipped and landed on his rear. Sorensen made a 44-yard field goal in the second half of that game.

At this point, he was 12 of 17, which is still a robust 71% success rate. Then Sorensen went cold. He missed his next five attempts. They ranged from 35 to 48 yards.

When the season ended, head coach Bronco Mendenhall revealed that Sorensen had developed a bone spur in his back. I am no expert on bone spurs, but while researching the matter, I learned that bone spurs take time to develop. They can go unnoticed for long periods of time. However, explains a bone spur “can cause wear and tear or pain if it presses or rubs on other bones or soft tissues.” With this understanding, it makes me suspect that the fall against TCU didn’t shake things up in Sorensen’s back and cause the already existing bone spur to press or rub other bones or soft tissues. Subsequently, Sorensen kicked poorly the next three games as a result.

A second consideration when looking at Sorensen’s less-than-desirable success rate on field goals is whether those 10 missed field goals caused BYU to lose any games last season. Against Texas, Sorensen made all three of his field goal attempts. He made his only field goal attempt against Utah as well.

The missed 50-yarder against TCU is harder to assess. On the surface, it had little bearing on the game’s outcome. BYU lost by 10. Three more points would have made it a seven point loss. However, football isn’t that simple. The momentum from one play in the second quarter can go a long way in determining the final outcome. Would a 50-yard field goal that made the halftime score 28-13 really change the game that much? In light of the impact the coaches had on that play, I have always placed the blame on the coaches for that miss.

The other nine missed field goals were inconsequential, especially the five in a row late in the season. Bone spur or no bone spur, in games that BYU wins 42-7, Sorensen can miss 40 field goals, for all I care. What does it really matter if a few field goals are made?

BYU didn’t lose any games this year because of Sorensen, but his kicking did put BYU in a position to win two games. Riley Nelson was able to drive 96-yards in the final 2:36 for the game-winning touchdown against Utah State because Sorensen had connected on two field goals earlier in the game. Without those two field goals, the Aggies would have held a comfortable 24-14 lead. A Sorensen field goal in the Armed Forces Bowl made the fake spike touchdown pass to Cody Hoffman the game-winning touchdown, as opposed to the game-tying touchdown. Without the field goal, the game would have gone to overtime, and who knows what would have happened then.

Sorensen still has some work to do. It will be a shame if he doesn’t hit a few very long field goals in his career. However, his sophomore season was a success. Despite an injury, he had one of the better seasons BYU has seen by a kicker.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at


  1. So, is has Sorensen's bone spur healed?

  2. hoffman is who you should be talking about all 3tds in a bowl game?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Don't worry, Cody Hoffman gets his share of coverage here.

      Bowl performance

      and more


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