Matt Gay remembers tuning into games, watching the snap, seeing the spiral hit the hands of the holder and the accompanying swing of a kicker’s leg. Each time a kicker drilled a field goal or even missed, Gay told himself he could cut it.
Now the former Utah Valley University soccer player turned Utah starting kicker is the nation’s leading field goal kicker, ranking No. 1 in field goals made (14), points per game (14), field goals per game (3.50) and field goal percentage.
Oh, and he also happens to be off to a perfect 14-of-14 start.
“My friends and family bring it up every once in a while,” he said. “It’s just an honor.”
Utah’s ability of finding dominant special teams performers continues. Alongside the reigning Ray Guy Award winner, Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky, Gay and the Aussie are prolonging a rich tradition for the No. 20 Utes.
Wishnowsky hasn’t had much punting to do in 2017. His 13 punt attempts are tied for the least in the Pac-12. But, his 46.8-yard average and negative return average through four games (minus-1 yard) — both tops in the Pac-12 — are no surprise.
“Utah has a good tradition of being elite at special teams,” Wishnowsky said. “I’m not going to be the one to break that, and I think Matt takes pride in trying to be the best he can as well, so I think the stats and all that sort of stuff look after themselves. Me and Matt definitely take pride in what we can do.”
Gay’s 14 consecutive field goal makes is already the third-longest in program history. The record is held by former kicker Joe Phillips, who made 18 in a row between 2009 and 2010.
“Utah’s known for their specialists,” Gay said. “They’re definitely known for their punters and field goal kickers. It’s special for me to be a name that’s carrying that on. It means a lot more here than if it was anywhere else.”
More beef up front
Stanford won’t hesitate to add extra heft to its offensive line Saturday night. No, the Cardinal, in fact, employ several offensive schemes that often feature as many as three offensive tackles for their run-heavy offense. In a 34-24 win over Arizona State last week, Stanford running back Bryce Love set a school rushing record with 301 yards.
“It’s crazy, because you don’t want to see more offensive linemen, especially their type of offensive linemen,” Utah defensive tackle Filipo Mokofisi said of Stanford’s unique looks. “It’s obviously a challenge, and you obviously want to rise up to that.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham agrees.
“You’ve got to sub with them,” he said. “In my opinion, if you just try and stay with your base personnel, you’re going to be mismatched. You’ve got to be able to try to go big on big.”
DiJonai Carrington does a good job keeping her older brother informed.
A sophomore guard on the Stanford women’s basketball team, DiJonai is the first to convey smack-talk surrounding her brother, Darren Carrington II, to help motivate the senior graduate transfer wide receiver.
“She talks to me and tells me what they’ll be saying all around campus,” Carrington said. “It’s just funny.”
As for the nature of talk, Utah’s leading wide receiver joked, “Just how they’re going to lock me up and they’re gonna smash me [and] all this, but I don’t care about their talk.”