COLUMBIA — A fraction of an inch, a small gust of wind, the slightly skewed angle of Grant Ressel’s foot.
On Saturday, any of these factors could have marked the difference between a routine extra point and the end of a nearly five-year-long streak for Missouri’s kickers.
Missouri scored seven touchdowns in its 51-13 rout of Miami of Ohio on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers used four running backs in the game who combined for 236 yards on 38 rushes. All four backs, De'Vion Moore, Henry Josey, Kendial Lawrence and Marcus Murphy scored a touchdown for the Tigers.
T.J. Moe caught seven passes for 95 yards to help the Tigers (4-0) go undefeated in nonconference play for the fifth consecutive season.
The Missouri defense forced three turnovers, each one leading to a Tigers touchdown.
Safety Kenji Jackson led the Tigers in tackles, registering 13 tackles and forcing one of Miami's five fumbles.
In the third quarter of Missouri’s football game against Miami (Ohio) University, Ressel lined up to do what he had done perfectly in the first 54 attempts of his Missouri career: kick an extra point. For Ressel, the kick is routine. Cleat connects with football, football sails through neon-yellow goal posts. It’s usually as simple as that.
On Saturday, it wasn’t. For the first time since his junior year in high school, Ressel missed. In an afternoon marked with highs and lows for Ressel, the kicker didn't let one mistake ruin his afternoon. The next time he stepped on the field, Ressel converted a 50-yard field goal, the longest of his Missouri career.
“I was pretty frustrated after I missed the extra point,” Ressel said after Missouri's 51-13 victory. “You know, it was all my fault. Forrest (Shock, the holder) and Beau (Brinkley, the long snapper) are great every time, and I feel like I let them down on the extra point.”
In his two years as the Missouri kicker, Ressel has been perfect in kicking extra points. So was his predecessor, Jeff Wolfert. In fact, Missouri kickers hadn’t missed an extra point in its past 252 attempts, since Nov. 5, 2005 in the Tigers’ 41-12 loss to Colorado.
“So much for the record,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said, shrugging.
Pinkel added that the kicking mistake was one of the bigger disappointments of the game. Neither he nor Ressel seemed completely surprised though, and Ressel said that he never takes any aspect of his game for granted.
“We haven’t been as consistent in practice,” Pinkel said.
Ressel said many of his kicks had been low this season, and he was trying to increase the height on the missed attempt.
Even after the mistake, Pinkel’s faith in the 2009 All-American kicker remained strong, and less than 10 minutes after the ball bounced off the goal post, Ressel was back on the field for a 50-yard field goal attempt. Ressel said he and Pinkel didn’t talk between the missed kick and the field goal. He didn’t have to lobby for the chance to go back on the field.
“I’m kind of glad Coach (Pinkel) gave me the opportunity," Ressel said. “It was probably a hard decision for him to make, but he trusted me, and that’s huge.”
From 30 yards further downfield, Ressel made it look easy. The field goal was the longest of his college career, topping the 46-yard kick he launched against Bowling Green last season.
“I just took my anger out on the ball the next time on the 50-yarder,” Ressel said.
With the failed extra point, Ressel’s season lost all chances at perfection. After a less-than-stellar preseason, Ressel missed his first field goal attempt of 2010 in the season opener against Illinois. With Saturday’s mistake, Ressel relinquished his attempt at another season of perfect extra point kicks. That’s not always a bad thing though, Ressel said.
“I just don’t worry about all the expectations,” Ressel said. “After missing the first one, you don’t really have to worry anymore. It’s like there’s no longer a way you’re going to be perfect, so there’s a lot less pressure.”
In the end, one missed field goal and another failed extra point don’t add up to much in a season. Two mistakes, four points. Ressel can get over that. With the field goal, Ressel found his consistency yet again. He took the field twice more on Saturday, each time completing his extra point kicks.
The new streak rests at two.