The start of the 2017 season for the Texas Longhorns has featured the tale of two Josh Rowlands.
The junior college transfer who quickly won the starting place-kicking job this spring has been Bad Josh Rowland in games, hitting on only 4-of-9 attempts and missing a 27-yard field goal against Kansas State and a 45-yarder that would have won the game at the end of regulation.
Known only as “The Kicker” to head coach Tom Herman, Rowland has also been Good Josh Rowland in practice.
"The hard part with the kicker is if you or if my grandma was at practice, she could tell you who the starting kicker should be because the kid had that good of a fall camp," Herman said in September. "So we've got to figure out a way for him to translate how well he did in fall camp to game day."
Herman still hasn’t figured it out, but Sunday was more of the same — according to the head coach, Rowland hit all 15 of his attempts, including six from more than 50 yards.
And so Herman is still saying the same thing now that he’s been saying for weeks.
"We’ve got to figure out why we’re inconsistent in games but so dead-on in practice,” he said.
The team will try to simulate a game-like environment this week by having Rowland kick while surrounded by screaming teammates, but as Herman noted, there’s no replacement for kicking in front of 100,000 fans.
Even with all the misses, Herman isn’t ready to give up on the kicker that he personally recruited out of Mississippi Gulf Coast CC shortly after arriving in Austin. However, the Texas head coach knows that continued struggles could well cost the ‘Horns a critical game this season.
Nationally, Texas ranks No. 118 in the country in hitting only 44.4 percent on field goals.
The back-up kicker is senior Mitchell Becker, who was largely a kickoff specialist last season, but did hit both of his attempts against TCU. The longest of those was only 31 yards, but Rowland is shaky even at that distance right now.
Based on Rowland’s body language, his confidence in games is at a low ebb right now and unless that changes quickly, the ‘Horns will have to give the fifth-year senior a chance.
“We've got to change something on game day,” Herman said. “But for now we've got to exhaust all available avenues to prepare him for that moment. If we're out of ideas and out of avenues, then we'll have to make a change at some point. But right now we have to trust that we can get him better and more prepared for those moments.”