ST. LOUIS — Grant Ressel said he slept like a baby the night before the his debut as Missouri’s starting field goal kicker.
Whatever nerves the sophomore might have had didn't keep him awake, and he wasn’t surprised.
“I’m just normally tired when I go to bed,” he said. “So, I'm a pretty easy sleeper.”
With 7 minutes and 23 seconds to go in the first quarter Saturday, he got to his first chance to try a field goal, a 32-yard attempt.
“I was just trying to focus on what I go through in my head before each kick,” Ressel said. “And I was doing a pretty good job of doing it. As soon as I got out there I got a little nervous, but it turned out OK.”
Ressel was successful on his first attempt, which removed any lingering nerves he had about his debut. Ressel went on to make his other two field goal attempts and made all four extra points he attempted in Missouri’s 37-9 victory against Illinois at the Edward Jones Dome.
“After the first one, I felt good out there,” he said, “like it was a natural thing for me.”
Offensive coordinator and kickers coach David Yost said he became more comfortable with Ressel after the first kick.
“I’ve seen kickers on the first kick have a lot of concerns or worries,” Yost said. “The nerves get to you. He went out, and he hit that one well. After that first one, I thought ‘Well, he might miss a kick, but it won’t be the nerves.’”
With 8:36 left to go in the second quarter, the team’s position on fourth down tested the coaches’ trust in Ressel. Yost said they had planned to have Ressel kick if the ball was on the Illinois 25 yard line or closer. Although it was a 44-yard attempt, it was decided Ressel would try the field goal. Ressel made the kick.
“Now we can maybe move that back a little bit,” Yost said of the benchmark for where they will send Ressel out to kick.
On his final field-goal attempt of the day, Ressel made a 41-yard field goal with six seconds to go in the first half.
“There was never even a light mishit,” Yost said. “He thought the one didn’t go quite down the middle enough, which it’s good that the expectations are that high.”
Ressel’s predecessor, Jeff Wolfert, was 20-for-27 on field goals last season. His longest of last season was a 51-yard kick. Wolfert was a three-year starter at kicker after leaving the Missouri swimming and diving team.
“Wolfert was a great kicker,” Ressel said. “I can’t take anything away from him. He’s probably for sure the greatest kicker Missouri has ever had. I don’t know if I’ll live up to his standards or not, but my goal is to.”
Ressel said watching Wolfert last season was invaluable.
“He’s a great teacher,” he said.
After the game, head coach Gary Pinkel interrupted an otherwise serious news conference to make a joke about Ressel, who came to Missouri to play football and, unlike Wolfert, didn’t join the team after playing another sport.
“What about our kicker?” Pinkel said. “Wow. Wow. He wasn’t even a diver.”