- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Syracuse's first win of the season rested on the leg of a true freshman who came to campus as a walk-on this summer.
The Orange coaches didn't exactly have the utmost confidence in kicker Ryan Lichtenstein last Saturday when they saw him miss a 10-yard field goal with no defenders during warmups before the Northwestern game. But Lichtenstein calmly nailed the 41-yard game-winner with no time left, part of a four field-goal day in Syracuse's 37-34 win.
Lichtenstein said he wasn't nervous before the kick, and punter Rob Long told him on the sideines, "You've done this a million times."
"I didn't look at it as any different than any other kick," Lichtenstein said. "Whether it's an extra point or a game-winning field goal, it should be all the same, with all the same mechanics."
He didn't have much time to think about it after Syracuse ran its "May Day" drill to set up the field goal. After Greg Paulus spiked the ball to stop the clock with 28 seconds left, the Orange then snapped it, and Paulus dived to the middle of the field. The field goal unit then sprinted out and got lined up with about 10 seconds left.
Syracuse has been practicing that play since the spring.
"It came in pretty handy," Lichtenstein said.
The Orange offered him a chance to walk on after spring drills. They had another kicker on scholarship in Austin Walls, but Walls left the team during fall camp. That left Lichtenstein as the only kicker on the roster. Syracuse gave him a scholarship the final week of camp. He's made 5-of-6 field goals this year.
"Ryan Lichtenstein has been tremendous for us so far," head coach Doug Marrone said. "We went through a lot of issues early on with the kicking situation back and forth, but Ryan has stepped up for us and done a tremendous job."
Lichtenstein, who grew up outside of Pittsburgh, decided to become a kicker after his older brother did so in high school. He was in sixth grade when he began taking some kicks with the high school team in practice. He had some walk-on offers to other schools but liked Syracuse's combination of opportunity and strong academics.
Three games into his career, he's a hero. After the kick, he got about 30 text messages and scores of Facebook posts congratulating him.
"After the kick went through, I couldn't believe what happened," he said.