WACO, Texas — He had been there plenty of times, this was nothing new for Jeff Wolfert. Missouri's senior kicker calmly walked onto the field and ripped a field goal through the uprights from 34 yards out.
Only this time, the kick was the game winner, allowing the Tigers football team to escape with a 31-28 victory Saturday over host Baylor.
Kansas State (4-5, 1-4 )
at No. 13 Missouri (7-2, 3-2)
WHEN: 6 p.m., Saturday
WHERE: Memorial Stadium
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM
Having to rely on Wolfert's calming confidence might have seemed foreign to the Tigers. In the past season and a half, the Tigers' closest margin has been five points in a loss to Oklahoma State back on Oct. 11.
Thanks to coach Gary Pinkel, his team knew Wolfert would be ready.
"We do 30-33-yard field goals at the end of every Thursday, where the situation is, ‘Alright Jeff, you can win the game,'" Wolfert said. "And I make them every Thursday, so they weren't asking me to do anything I haven't been doing week in and week out."
His staged heroics may not come on college football's biggest stage, but a paltry Baylor Homecoming crowd of 35,000, which left almost one-third of Floyd Casey Stadium's seats empty, isn't exactly a deafening atmosphere either.
"My mentality was just to not think about anything different than a normal kick," Wolfert said. "Just (holder) Tommy (Saunders), (long snapper) Beau (Brinkley) and I out there just kicking the ball."
A puzzling case of paranoia by Baylor coach Art Briles made Wolfert wait an extra couple of minutes to be Saturday's hero. The first time the Tigers lined up to try and take the lead with just more than two minutes to play, Briles used his team's last timeout in a decision that smelled like a foolish attempt to ice Wolfert, Missouri's all-time leading scorer. After the game, though, Pinkel said an injury that forced a replacement on the field goal unit was Briles' cause for concern.
"You got to give them credit in the press box, they thought we were running a fake," Pinkel said. "They weren't icing Wolf, you're not going to ice him anyway."
Wolfert said, "I like it when they do that, so I can get cool, take some deep breaths and relax yourself.
Once the Tigers' dress rehearsal was over, Wolfert's kick reflected what went on inside his helmet before the kick.
"When I was out there, I had all the confidence in the world I was going to make it," Wolfert said. "I just told Tommy, ‘Come on, let's go. This is easy, let's do it.'"
While there's no way to be certain that the postgame breeze whipping through those empty bleachers in Waco was the result of a collective sigh of relief coming from Columbia, one thing is for sure: Thanks to Wolfert, the trip home to Columbia for the Tigers wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.