STARKVILLE – If Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen had his way, he’d have a two new kickers at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (WCBI) for his team’s game against No. 6 University of Arkansas.
But there isn’t a waiver wire in college football, so MSU will bring the same special teams players to Little Rock, Ark., to face the Razorbacks (9-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference)
“Obviously very disappointed with our kickers,” Mullen said. “Very, very disappointed with our kickers. I can’t cut them and go get new ones. We have to do a better job of getting them coached up and getting them straight for this week.”
Senior Derek DePasquale has missed five of his past six attempts. His only make is a 22-yarder against the University of South Carolina.
After DePasquale missed a 41-yarder Saturday against then-No. 4 Alabama, Mullen had seen enough. He refused to refer to DePasquale by name after Saturday night after a 24-7 loss.
“The other kid didn’t have a good look in his eye,” Mullen said. “He wasn’t looking confident. (DePasquale) didn’t kick if smoothly. We figured we’d give (Brian Egan) an opportunity and see what he could do. He missed his opportunity, too.”
Egan, who hadn’t attempted a field goal until Saturday, was called upon for a 29-yard that was badly missed wide right. The missed field goal was the second failed trip inside the Crimson Tide’s 25-yard line.
Egan had mostly been used on kickoffs and has five touchbacks this season.
DePasquale went 10 of 12 on field goals each of the past two seasons He hasn’t an extra point in his three-year MSU career.
Mullen repeated his mantra that while he oversees the special teams unit, he views their practice habits differently and will approach coaching them in a much different manner.
“There’s a rhythm involved in that,” Mullen said. “Kicking field goals is a skill. It’s not an effort-based thing. You look and you can’t say, ‘Let’s go harder’ because we have to fix the skill of kicking the field goal. It’s not something that effort fixes, it’s skill fixes.”
On Monday, Mullen compared the struggles of DePasquale and Egan to the mechanics of a golf swing. He said all the moving parts of the body have to be right for the swing of the leg to connect for a made field goal.
“You’re talking a slight tweak or there,” Mullen said. “Where your plan foot is located, your follow-through, your shoulder rotation, shoulder positioning, those types of things we just evaluate and get consistent.”
While it may be cliché, Mullen said kickers can lose confidence when they try too hard.
“I think a lot of the issues can come from effort,” Mullen said. “As you go out and I guess for the regular fan, it’s like golf. If you’re not hitting the ball well off the tee, the solution is not to swing a lot harder at it. And a lot of times I think our field goal kicker, he’s going out and saying, ‘I’ve missed a couple, I’ve got to go harder. I’ve got to do it better.’ And that ends up making him miss even more at that point because he’s off balance a little bit more. That’s just the mental aspect of it that we have to get him back into a fundamental rhythm.”
MSU (5-5, 1-5) could need its kickers to make a critical attempt Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. Mullen said Sunday the starting position of field goal kicker will be evaluated in practice like any other position. On Monday, though, he leaned toward DePasquale being that person.
“We’ve got to get them confidence,” Mullen said. “Derek’s made a lot of field goals during his career. He’s missed a bunch in games now. He makes them in warmups, makes them in practice. In the beginning of the season he was missing them all in practice but making them in the games a lot.”