Like most kickers, Jaekle never satisfied
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – Position players aren’t the only ones to look at game film to scout an upcoming opponent. Kickers also get in on the act, though clearly not to the same degree.
“We (kickers) study film, too,” Nevada kicker Brett Jaekle said before a recent practice this past week in preparation for the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 22 against the University of New Mexico. “You look at the kickoff return to see where they like to return the ball and field goals to see where they are coming from to get pressure.
“Their kickoff return is pretty legit. They like to come across your face, which means I have to kick it as high and as far into the corner as I can.”
New Mexico has two solid returners in Marcus Smith and DeAndre Wright, who are averaging 23.2 and 22.3, respectively.
Kickoffs have been the only real blemish on Jaekle’s resume. He converted 76 percent of his field goal attempts and 94 percent of his PATs this year. Kickoffs are what has brought criticism from head coach Chris Ault and special teams coordinator Barry Sacks at various times this year.
Early in the season, he was having trouble getting the ball into the end zone for touchbacks and getting directional kicks to the right spot on the field. Some kicks went out of bounds, and others were well off target, and Nevada was the victim of some healthy returns which left the defense with some poor field position at times early this season.
Place some of the blame on the new NCAA rule that forced kickoffs back to the 30 instead of the 35, and some of it on just trying too hard to be too precise on the directional kicks that the coaches were asking him to make.
“I didn’t think it would make that big of difference,” Jaekle said, alluding to the new 5-yard rule. “Last year I was getting touchbacks; kicking it 6 or 7 yards deep. Even with moving back, I would have expected to get it to the goal line at least.
“The kicks they are asking me to make aren’t difficult. It’s just like golf, though. If you try to kick it too hard; try to overpower it that’s when you have problems and you start slicing the ball.”
Ault doesn’t buy the extra-yardage argument.
“Brett has a strong leg,” the Nevada coach said. “He’ s a good athlete. He had camps and all summer to take care of that.
“His kickoffs were real inconsistent. I expected a lot more. He missed crucial field goals and a few extra points. I expected more consistency. Hang time is crucial, and he wasn’t getting it.”
Ault is just as quick to point out that Jaekle has improved since taking over the job two years ago, and that he has more confidence in him now than he did back then. Jaekle attempted and made more field goals this season than either of his two previous years.
In actuality, 16 of 21 is pretty solid. Only two of those misses were inside 40 yards. Only one field goal and one PAT had any bearing on the potential outcome of a game.
Jaekle, who missed a 26-yarder against Idaho, missed a game-tying 37-yarder at San Jose State. The latter miss cost Nevada a shot at a winning season. It should also be pointed out that Nevada went scoreless the second half, and the game shouldn’t have gone down to a final kick.
Jaekle missed an extra point against New Mexico State which would have given the Pack a three-point lead. New Mexico State missed a game-winning field goal to take Jaekle and the Pack off the hook.
“The PAT is supposed to be a freebie,” Jaekle said. “It’s lack of focus (when you miss). When I miss a kick, I’ll carry that around all weekend. I hated it.
“You can’t lose confidence; I know I never did that. No matter what happens, you keep your head up always.”
Like all kickers, Jaekle won’t be truly happy unless he makes every kick, and we all know that even the best NFL kickers miss one now and again.
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281
JAEKLE BY THE NUMBERS
1 The number of field goals converted from 50 yards or more this year
2 The number of college kickers in the Jaekle family
4 The most field goals he has kicked in a game
5 Where he ranks in Nevada history for career field goals
8 Where his 16 field goals this season ranks him on the all-time list
THE JAEKLE FILE
Year in school: Junior
Height/weight: 6-4 210
Major: General studies
High School: Bonanza HS, Las Vegas