MANHATTAN — It’s important for kickers to remember the good days.
When things go bad, they hear more negatives than they probably deserve. When things go well, their contributions can easily be relegated to the footnotes. But when things go great and their field goals help win a game, as was the case for Matthew McCrane during Kansas State’s 33-20 victory over Baylor on Saturday, they are encouraged to celebrate.
McCrane shook off a shaky start to his senior season by connecting on all four his field goal attempts, splitting the uprights from 21, 23, 37 and 49 yards. K-State needed a strong effort from its kicker, and he delivered.
“He has missed a couple of substantial field goals, but you look at the entirety of his career and he has been very good,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “Considering how difficult that is ... As I have said so many times, that is probably — outside of snapping the ball — the hardest thing in the game of football itself and he does it quite well. It takes a lot of focus and a great deal of discipline on his part. He works at it and it is important to him. He has done well with it.”
You didn’t hear that type of statement two weeks ago when McCrane missed a meaningful field goal during a 14-7 loss to Vanderbilt. He had a chance to give the Wildcats a 10-7 lead in the second half, but he couldn’t take advantage.
Afterward, McCrane said he heard from several upset K-State fans on social media and that he felt down on himself throughout the Wildcats’ bye week. As time went on, though, he found a way to turn those negative comments into motivation.
“That’s part of being a kicker,” McCrane said. “When you miss, you get stuff like that. If I don’t do my job I deserve stuff like that. Today, I did my job.”
Indeed, he was perfect against Baylor. McCrane connected on four field goals and three extra points.
He entered Saturday having made 87 percent of his career field goals, the top number in K-State history. Yet, it felt like he was in a bit of a slump. It’s been a roller-coaster few seasons for McCrane. Since making 18 of 19 field goals as a freshman and then his first seven as a sophomore, he has battled injuries and accuracy issues.
It was hard for him to stay on the field as a sophomore and junior, then he missed two of his first six attempts this season.
Perhaps a day like Saturday will help him regain his top form.
“It’s a big motivator for me,” McCrane said, “and a confidence booster.”
The best part of McCrane’s effort against Baylor was that his final two kicks had a lot riding on them. Baylor pulled to within 27-20 in the fourth quarter when the Wildcats asked him to kick a 49-yarder into the wind, and he connected to give them a two-score lead.
Later, he drilled a 23-yarder to make the score 33-20.
“When it comes down to a game-winning kick or a difference-making kick it does add a little bit of pressure,” McCrane said. “But every kick is the same to me. The goal posts don’t move every week. So I just try to do my job and that is what I did.”
He did it well.
McCrane deserved to celebrate after his finest game of the season. His teammates encouraged him to do so.
“It makes it a lot easier for us just knowing he is automatic,” K-State running back Dalvin Warmack said. “Of course, we would like to get seven on the board, but he guarantees us three every time we are down there.”