BYU trying to get its kicking game back together before the Hawaii Bowl

BYU's Jake Oldroyd (39) celebrates a 33-yard field goal with teammate Hayden Livingston in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee to send the game into overtime Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Provo • Now that BYU is no longer operating on a weekly basis and has more time to prepare, assistant coach Ed Lamb is taking the time to improve what has been one of the team’s biggest issues throughout the second half of the season: kicking.

As it was last week, the kicking position for the upcoming Hawaii Bowl is still up for grabs. Coach Kalani Sitake said the staff has created competitions to see which player, most likely between Jake Oldroyd and Skyler Southam, will get the nod come December 24.

But this wasn't always an issue the Cougars had.

Oldroyd, the starter at the beginning of the season, had only one bad outing in the first half of the season. The sophomore nailed 13 of 15 field goal attempts in five games, but missed both attempts at Toledo in what turned out to be a disappointing 28-21 loss.

In the the next five games, Oldroyd made only one of four attempts.

For the regular-season finale at San Diego State, Southam won the position based on that week’s competition, but made only one of three attempts.

“We’ve got two kickers in a slump right now, which means our field goal team is in a slump and our field goal coach is in a slump — and that’s me,” Lamb said. “And we all have to work together to get better.”

Lamb also added that the players are putting it all on themselves, maybe even too much.

Sitake considers himself a bottom line-type of guy. He just wants his players to make the kick, make the catch, throw the ball, secure and make the tackle and so forth. The four-year coach said he doesn’t get into the details of everything, instead he lets the experts take care of that.

If the players need help off the field, Sitake knows the sports psychology and health departments will be able to help his players get back in the right mental state.

But besides the mental aspect of the game, Sitake also believes there’s often more at play when a kicker misses a kick.

“Just like when running backs scored a touchdown and everyone’s like ‘well that was a great run.’ Well, if he got a touchdown, it probably had a lot to do with the O-line, tight ends, receivers blocking on the field as well,” Sitake said. “My job is to look at what actually fits and what we can fix, and what my expertise is and then usually resources around me.”

Because the Cougars will have more than three weeks to prepare for the Hawaii Bowl, Lamb said he’s doing a couple different things from what he normally did during the season to help the kickers.

The assistant coach is getting more creative about adding stress, but also more fun, to the practices. While the kickers are placed under more stressful situations, if they make a field goal, then the coaches have to run extra laps after practice.

“That's always a popular way to get players celebrating around the success of the kicker, but also a way to provide a little bit of stress,” Lamb said.

Lamb’s also taking footage from different camera angles so that the kickers can study their technique and any inconsistencies with it.

But for all the work that Lamb will put in with the kickers before the team heads out to Honolulu, the real test will come when the Cougars face Hawaii.

“There’s no way to really give an accurate appraisal of where they’re at right now, because it’s all about the game,” Lamb said. “Making kicks in practice consistently — which they do well — that really needs to translate to the game.”