Michael Matheny lay under a pile of his teammates, having kicked the winning extra point in Missouri’s win Saturday.
Normally that wouldn’t mean too much, but not much earlier, it looked as though Matheny would be the scapegoat for an embarrassing loss. Instead, he had become one of the heroes of No. 23 Missouri’s 41-40 overtime win against Middle Tennessee State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
By the time he went on the field for the potential winning kick, Matheny had had two extra-point attempts blocked, though one of them managed to deflect through the uprights. He also had two of his normally booming kickoffs hook out of bounds. Something was wrong.
At the end of what had been his worst day as Missouri’s kicker, though, Matheny’s mood lightened, for he had an ideal chance at redemption. It wouldn’t be easy though.
“I just wanted to make up for myself,” Matheny said. “I did terrible on kickoffs, and on extra points, we struggled. So, I was kind of happy to have a chance to make up for myself.”
As if the pressure wasn’t enough, the Tigers were flagged for excessive celebration after quarterback Brad Smith’s tying touchdown run. Matheny’s kick got longer. No problem.
“It’s the same kick,” Matheny said. “Whether you kick it from the 10 or from the 25, it’s the same old kick.”
The Blue Raiders called timeout so Matheny’s wait grew longer. No one said a word to him on the sideline.
“I just stay away from them,” free safety Nino Williams II said. “I just leave them alone and let them do what they have to do. He went out and handled his business. He’s the player of the game to me.”
Because Middle Tennessee State had blocked two extra points in the game, the Tigers chose to move the snap back a yard, and Matheny’s kick got longer.
What could have been a routine extra point had become a 36-yarder. Far from a gimme.
“You talk about one character test for a human being,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “I don’t think there would’ve been a person sitting in that stadium who would’ve wanted to kick that ball. He was very inconsistent, but I’ll tell you one thing, when it came time to make a play, he made it.”
He made it without a doubt. The kick had plenty of height and distance, things Matheny’s kicks lacked for most of the day. Matheny insists it was the same routine as always, though.
“If anything, I let up a little bit,” Matheny said. “I kicked less than what I normally do. It’s amazing what kickers do whenever they don’t try to kill it. It’s just like golf, it goes right through.
“As soon as it hit my foot, I knew it was good. I threw my hands up and then I couldn’t breathe for about a minute when the whole team was on top of me.”
Everything had gone wrong for Matheny on Saturday, but then, suddenly, everything was right.