Texas Longhorns fans are quite familiar with the feeling of a kicker costing the Longhorns the chance to add to the win column.
The most memorable of many instances came in 2015 when Jerrod Heard’s late-game heroics were made irrelevant just moments later as Nick Rose’s extra point attempt sailed right in a 45-44 loss, but there have been more kicking woes since.
The following season, in what proved to be Strong’s last, the kicking game could be directly credited for three of Texas’ seven losses. A Trent Domingue missed field goal from 35 yards in the fourth quarter became the difference in a 24-21 loss to Kansas State, and just weeks later, Domingue had a 37-yard field goal attempt blocked in the fourth quarter against West Virginia, which forced Texas to go for it with five seconds left from the Mountaineers 27-yard line in a 24-20 loss. The hangover extended into the following week, as Domingue was unable to convert a 31-yard attempt is what’s now arguably the most embarrassing loss in program history — a 24-21 defeat at the hands of Kansas.
The 2017 season featured a different coach and a different kicker, but the same sad story continued. Between JUCO transfer Joshua Rowland’s struggles and the staff’s lack of confidence in their junior kicker leading to multiple failed fourth-down attempts, the kicking game was tied to Texas leaving as many as 57 points on the field last season, and directly impacting the outcome in losses to Maryland, USC, and Oklahoma.
Fast forward to 2018 and Texas is now fielding its fourth kicker in as many seasons, and this time around, it’s a true freshman in local product Cameron Dicker. It may be a bit too early to tell for sure, but for a program that’s been plagued by poor place-kicking the past several seasons, the early returns in are encouraging, to say the least.
After seeing the field only for seven extra point attempts — in addition to kickoff duties, of course — Dicker’s first ever field-goal attempt as a Longhorn came on national television and in front of a record crowd at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, but 20 yards isn’t too overwhelming for a debut boot.
What should typically be a chip shot hasn’t been that at Texas in recent years, but it was for Dicker as he added the first three Texas points to the scoreboard last Saturday.
Dicker’s second attempt came from 46 yards, which is a distance Rowland delivered from only once last season with a 49-yard connection to cap a 17-7 win over Iowa State.
Dicker did it twice.
After sinking his first attempt from 46 yards earlier in the second quarter against USC, Dicker trotted back onto the field with three seconds remaining before intermission and sank his second 46-yard attempt of the evening; this time, to give Texas a narrow 16-14 edge entering halftime.
“He showed why he earned the job,” Tom Herman said of Dicker on Saturday night after the true freshman converted each of his three field goal attempts. “He’s made some big kicks in his life. When you play for Lake Travis, you’re going to be in some pressure-packed big games. We knew he had that in him.”
Herman’s sentiment’s following his kicker’s first few field-goal attempts are indicative of a confidence in Dicker that he never had in Rowland last season. It was the same kind of confidence that convinced Herman to start the true freshman over a senior who nailed seven of his final nine attempts last season, and each of his two looks from 29 yards and 50 yards in the spring game.
Can Dicker become the best kicker at Texas since Anthony Fera in 2013 and put several years of poor place-kicking in the past? The sample size is still small and the talent to beat isn’t exactly top-notch, but again, the early returns are encouraging.
Texas quite simply needs that to continue, and with wins and losses on the line, that’s what will be expected from the highest ranked kicker to commit to a Big 12 program since 2015.