The nightmare place-kicking situation for the Texas Longhorns is now stretching into a second season, as junior college transfer Josh Rowland has struggled in hitting only 7-of-14 attempts on the season.
His practice performances have made head coach Tom Herman hesitant to make a change throughout the season, but senior Mitchell Becker could finally receive his opportunity on Saturday against the Kansas Jayhawks.
“I think depending on how practice goes, you know, we had a two-minute drill yesterday that ended in a field goal and Mitchell Becker was the one that kicked it,” Herman said on Monday.
A fifth-year senior from League City Clear Creek, Becker successfully made two short field-goal attempts last season against TCU, the only two attempts of his career. In 2016, he also handled kickoffs, but was displaced in that role this season by Rowland.
The question is whether Becker has been consistent enough in practice to earn the role.
“Really, at the end of the day, there's no -- maybe no more easier position to grade than kicker,” Herman said. “You either made it or you didn't, right?”
So the coaches have been charting all the kicks in practice in addition to attempting to put the kickers in game-like situations.
“We give them equal kicks throughout the week,” Herman said. “We put pressure on them. We have the whole team around them screaming, yelling, doing the whole waving up and down and doing all that stuff.”
Throughout the season, Herman said that Rowland has been “a lot better” in those pressure situations in practice, but that practice success hasn’t translated to the field — the Texas kicking game this season has been the worst in years, even though there have been plenty of recent struggles:
Texas has now missed 7 FGs in 3 of its last 4 seasons. UT's last 10-miss season was Dusty Mangum's sophomore year in 2002 (16-26). #HookEm— Danny Davis (@aasdanny) November 6, 2017
The last time UT's lead kicker missed half of his FGs? 2006 when Greg Johnson was 3-for-6. Joshua Rowland is 7-for-14 this year. #HookEm— Danny Davis (@aasdanny) November 6, 2017
Rowland has missed kicks in just about every way imaginable this season. Some have been low and were blocked at the line of scrimmage, including a 27-yarder against Baylor. There was a 27-yarder that Rowland missed against Kansas State. Last week, there was a 47-yarder that fell well short.
In all, Rowland has hit just 1-of-5 attempts from 40 or more yards.
The kicking has been so atrocious that Herman has resorted to going for it on difficult down-and-distance situations, even though the ‘Horns have converted on only 7-of-21 fourth-down attempts this season, which ranks tied for No. 113 nationally.
That’s what happens when the team’s field-goal percentage sits tied for No. 120 nationally.
As an All-American in the junior college ranks, Rowland was supposed to represent an improvement over Trent Domingue and perhaps even Nick Rose, who wasn’t awful as a senior other than his missed point-after attempt against Cal, but struggled as a junior.
Unfortunately, gauging the mental toughness of kickers on big stages is a difficult task for coaches evaluating players at the high school or junior college level and, at least so far, Herman has missed with Rowland.
Whether he believes that Becker represents a better option for the final three games remains to be seen — even in practice, the senior hasn’t stood out, so the sad reality may be that Rowland is the best option the ‘Horns currently have on campus.