A kicker’s life: USC’s Fry a hero, but knows he’s a kick away from misery

nwhite@thestate.comOctober 30, 2013 

In the second overtime period of South Carolina’s game against Missouri this past weekend, the placekicker for each team got an opportunity to win or extend the game.

USC freshman Elliott Fry made his 40-yard field goal, while Missouri sophomore Andrew Baggett watched his 24-yard attempt bounce off the left upright to result in the Gamecocks’ 27-24 victory.

As Fry celebrated the win on the field with his teammates, Baggett retreated to the solitude of the locker room, where he sat with a towel draped over his head. Fry said he knows their roles could have been reversed, so he felt sympathy for his counterpart, who was blistered by some disappointed Tiger fans on social media outlets.

“I feel terrible with what’s happened with the media and him and his fans, especially when it’s not completely his fault,” Fry said. “There’s not a kicker who goes through his career that hasn’t missed one.”

Fry was referencing the hold on Baggett’s kick, where the laces were facing him, which can make it more difficult for kickers to connect solidly. Fry said the same thing happened to him on a missed extra point against Georgia this season. That’s the sort of thing that can make the margin of error very small when it comes to being a hero or a goat.

In taking with the Missouri media Monday, Baggett still took the blame for the miss, saying he’s got to make that kick no matter what the circumstances are. And he also noted that his teammates and many of the school’s fans have supported much more strongly than the initial wrath from some on Twitter and Internet message boards.

USC coach Steve Spurrier understands that kickers aren’t going to make every kick, and he shakes his head over how some fans can overreact to a miss.

“Well, that shouldn’t happen. He (Baggett) tried the best he could,” Spurrier said. “If our guy missed, nothing you can do about it. He’s trying to make the kick the best he can.”

Fry’s game-winning kick came after he missed a 40-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter. He said that miss didn’t enter his mind as he lined up for the one in the second overtime.

“You block out that last kick, and you go and make the next one,” Fry said. “You can’t really focus on the last kick because it gets in your head. You just can’t worry about it.”

The 6-foot, 155-pound Fry, a Frisco, Texas, native who has made 8 of 10 field goal attempts and 31 of 32 extra points for 55 points this season, said he never got an opportunity to speak to Baggett after the game because of the suddenness of the victory and the postgame celebration.

“I was definitely pretty excited when I hit that because it gave us the lead, but yeah, a lot more excitement came after he missed and we realized we’d won the game,” he said.

Baggett also told reporters this week that he didn’t pay attention to the negative remarks, stating that nothing anyone says can make him feel worse than he already felt about the miss. He even managed to joke that his parents still love him.

For his part, Fry is feeling the love from USC fans and students after making the kick that knocked off the nation’s then-fifth-ranked team. Spurrier told the story of an exchange he had with Fry at Monday night’s practice.

“I said, ‘Do students on campus recognize you as a football player?’ He looks like a normal student, and he is a smart kid,” Spurrier said. “He said, ‘Yeah, there are a few of them that actually recognize me.’

“I said, ‘Really?’ But Elliott Fry is getting recognized on campus now so, hopefully, he won’t go bad on us by getting too much attention.”

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