COLUMBIA — Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett admits he was nervous before the Tigers' first football game of 2012 on Saturday.
But as the game wore on, the redshirt freshman who narrowly beat out senior punter Trey Barrow for the place-kicking job, said he felt good.
Baggett, a 6-foot-2 kicker from Lee's Summit says his right leg, the one he kicks with, is shorter than his left. He's not exactly sure why, but thinks it might be a result of taking a hard kick to the shin while playing soccer in high school.
After coming to Missouri, Baggett realized his right leg was an inch and a half shorter after he had trouble doing squats while working out. He was told by trainers that his hips had adjusted, making his legs uneven by about a half inch. For that, the athletic department gave him lifts to wear on the bottom of his right shoes.
Now Baggett says he can squat 500 pounds, 185 pounds more than he could before.
But Baggett did not get to test his leg much in Saturday's game. His work consisted of nine extra point attempts. He missed one of the nine.
"It was disappointing that he missed that one PAT," said David Yost, Missouri's offensive coordinator. "As a young player, you've got to learn that you've got to be ready to go at all times. You've got to be all focused, your team's counting on you. You can't have that happen because in a tight game that could be crucial."
When Missouri plays Georgia on Saturday, extra points will be much more meaningful than they were in the Tigers' 62-10 win Saturday over Southeastern Louisiana.
Field goals could be even more important. Baggett did not even attempt a field goal in the game Saturday. The kicking team lined up for a 41-yarder in the second quarter, before a false start penalty pushed them back 5 yards. Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel then changed his mind and sent the offense back on the field to go for it on fourth-and-9.
"We always go in with the yardage that we're going to kick," Pinkel said. "That's all planned. We make that decision Thursday morning."
Pinkel said that he doesn't discuss the length they choose, but based on that play, the distance for the game against Southeastern Louisiana was somewhere between 42 and 46 yards.
Missouri passed up long field goal attempts three other times in the game, though one was the last play of the game when the Tigers converted on fourth-and-1 to run out the clock.
The two other times, Missouri passed up kicks of 51 and 49 yards to go for it on fourth down.
"I know the coaches were trying to help me," Baggett said. "They want me to make my first field goal. It's kinda something important to kickers."
Baggett, who made a 51-yarder during pregame warmups, said the coaching staff just wanted to be safe. He said that the rain and poor weather conditions were factors in the decisions as well.
So Baggett will have to wait at least until Saturday before attempting his first field goal. Until then, he will have to try to get himself mentally ready.
"I just kind of reassure myself, you know," Baggett said. "Tell yourself that, 'You're fine. You don't need to try to kill it. It's not that far. You can make it. You're here for a reason.'"
Yost said he hopes Baggett will continue to get better as the season goes on, but acknowledged that the kicker could still be replaced quickly, unlike former Missouri kicker Grant Ressel, who earned the coaches trust after strong performances in his sophomore and junior years.
"He (Ressel) had a pretty good leash before we were gonna start talking about having somebody else kick," Yost(cq) said. "Andrew understands that. All we can focus on right now is the next kick he has, and go out and do the best he can."
Baggett says he watches a lot of football and often critiques the kickers in each game. This Saturday, all eyes will be on him if the Tigers need a field goal late in the game against Georgia.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.