Am­men­dola launch­ing into new role

The Oklahoman - - SPORTS - John Hel­s­ley jhel­s­ley@ oklahoman.com

STILL­WA­TER — Cow­boys kicker Matt Am­men­dola doesn’t quite know his max dis­tance for a field goal, yet he’s will­ing to learn, and un­der fire.

“If (Mike) Gundy throws me out there for a 60-yarder, I’ll be fine with that,” Am­men­dola said.

Seems Gundy might al­ready be lean­ing that way.

Am­men­dola has put his pow­er­ful right leg on dis­play, drilling field goals of 48 and 53 yards early in this sea­son, both com­ing in last week’s 44-7 rout of South Alabama. Over­all, the sopho­more is 4-of-6 on field goal tries.

The misses, how­ever, have cu­ri­ously come on shorter at­tempts: 33 and 42 yards.

“We’d prob­a­bly be bet­ter off tak­ing 15-yard penal­ties be­fore we kick a field goal and back it up,” Gundy joked this week. “He’s very com­fort­able in kick­ing long field goals.”

Am­men­dola in­sists he’s

com­fort­able from shorter range, too, and to be fair, his sam­ple size re­mains small so early in his role as Ok­la­homa State’s pri­mary spe­cial­ist. Still, he’s seem­ingly opted for a more ab­bre­vi­ated ap­proach on closer kicks, no­tice­able es­pe­cially with the misses.

Gundy, al­ways a fan of golf analo­gies when it comes to kick­ing, of­fered another in de­scrib­ing Am­men­dola’s short game.

“I think some­times on the shorter kicks, he takes it for granted and just sort of punches through it,” Gundy said. “‘Would I rather hit a hard 9-iron or a soft 8?’ It’s sort of the same con­cept.

“He’s still very young and in­ex­pe­ri­enced. But he has a fu­ture. He’s lev­el­headed, he doesn’t lose his fo­cus. A lot of times with kick­ers, the is­sue is they’ll men­tally get whacked out over not do­ing well. I don’t see that with him.”

Am­men­dola, of­fer­ing more golf talk, sug­gests he’s al­ways aim­ing for the same swing.

“We stay fo­cused on an easy 6-iron, stroking it with that every time, just an easy swing,” he said. “I want to kick the ball the

same every time.

“My first game, the nerves kind of got to me,” on a missed 33-yarder. “I feel like every game is go­ing to get bet­ter. I’m just try­ing to put the ball down the mid­dle every time.”

Am­men­dola did that mostly at South Alabama, mak­ing 3-of-4 tries with the two long boots, good enough to earn him Big 12 Spe­cial Teams Player of the Week honors.

So de­spite the nit­pick­ing, life is good for Am­men­dola, who han­dled kick­off du­ties a year ago and made one of his two field goal at­tempts — from 53 yards, nat­u­rally — be­fore re­plac­ing Ben Gro­gan

as kicker this sea­son.

Now he’s headed homeward, with the Philadel­phia-area na­tive ea­ger to per­form for the Cow­boys at Pitt on Satur­day.

“I’ve got a whole lot of fam­ily com­ing out, ex­cited friends, peo­ple who have been there for me since Day 1, a whole big sup­port sys­tem,” said Am­men­dola, known as “Philly” by his team­mates. “I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to it. I haven’t seen them for a while. It’ll be cool to kick in front of them again.

“Pitts­burgh was re­ally the first place I kind of grew up kick­ing. It’s how I got re­cruited here; I went to a camp there for the first time. It kind of started ev­ery­thing out for me. It’ll be cool to go back and re­live that.”

Maybe Gundy will even let him test his range.

“It’s nice to have a guy who can kick one fairly con­sis­tent from 50-plus,” Gundy said. “It cer­tainly opens up a few more doors for you of­fen­sively.”

Am­men­dola once drilled a school-record 56-yard field goal in high school. So far, that’s his long in prac­tice as a Cow­boy — one of many long ones.

“We had a scrim­mage about a week be­fore our first game,” Am­men­dola said. “Gundy threw me out there from 50, 52, 44 and a 56. I hit all of them.”

[AP PHOTO]

Cow­boys kicker Matt Am­men­dola has al­ready con­nected on field goal tries from 53 and 48 yards, of­fer­ing an added weapon.

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