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