Commentary

This time, Shelley gets his kicks

Originally Published: January 10, 2012
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

NEW ORLEANS -- After Alabama tailback Trent Richardson finally broke the ice against No. 1 LSU in Monday night's Allstate BCS Championship Game, scoring the first touchdown in more than 105 minutes of football played between the teams this season, Crimson Tide kicker Jeremy Shelley lined up for his easiest kick of the night.

Shelley missed the extra point.

But it didn't even matter.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Shelley
Tyler Kaufman/Icon SMIA kicker has to forget past troubles and just do his job, Alabama's Jeremy Shelley said Monday after kicking five field goals in the BCS title game.

After Shelley and fellow kicker Cade Foster combined to miss four field goals in the Crimson Tide's 9-6 loss in overtime to LSU on Nov. 5, Shelley made five field goals in Alabama's 21-0 victory over the Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday night.

Thanks to its menacing defense and Shelley's right foot, Alabama dominated LSU in the rematch and won its second BCS national title in three seasons.

"It's tremendous," Alabama center William Vlachos said. "Those guys have been under a lot of heat. They showed what kind of character they have. They got knocked down and took a lot of heat, but got back up and performed on the biggest stage there is."

With how badly Foster and Shelley performed in the teams' first meeting more than two months ago, a shot at redemption was like former Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner getting a do-over on Mookie Wilson's ground ball. Or former Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood getting a mulligan on the 47-yard field goal he missed at the end of Super Bowl XXV.

If the Crimson Tide hadn't earned a trip to New Orleans, where they played LSU in the first regular-season rematch in BCS championship game history, Alabama's 2011 season probably would have been remembered as the season that sailed wide right (and left).

"It was pretty cool," Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones said. "Everybody blamed the loss on the kickers the first time. Now they had a shot at redemption."

With LSU's defense again making it difficult for the Crimson Tide's offense to reach the end zone, Alabama coach Nick Saban called on Shelley time and time again. Shelley's five field goals were the most made in a BCS title game, breaking the record of two set by six other players, most recently Auburn's Wes Bynum last season.

Shelley, a junior from Raleigh, N.C., also scored 15 points, fifth most by a player in a BCS championship game.

[+] EnlargeSign
John David Mercer/US PresswireSome fans leading up to Monday's title game still weren't happy with the performance of Alabama's kickers.

"When it comes down to it, you've got to step up and forget about the last game," Shelley said. "You've got to forget about it and do your job."

Forgetting about the Nov. 5 debacle seemed easier for Shelley, who was responsible for one of the Tide's four missed field goals in the first game against LSU.

Foster, a sophomore from Southlake, Texas, didn't make a field goal the rest of the season after missing three in the first game against LSU.

The Crimson Tide have typically used Shelley on field goal attempts from 43 yards or shorter this season. Foster usually attempted all field goals from 44 yards or longer.

But in the rematch against LSU, Shelley tried all the field goals. Foster handled the kickoffs.

"I didn't know," Foster said. "Shelley was kicking the ball great tonight. He was on fire. When it's not broken, why fix it? He was making kicks, and that's what mattered. I'm not disappointed I didn't get the opportunity. I'm just happy Shelley made the kicks."

Shelley didn't make all of his field goal attempts, but he certainly made enough. After making a 23-yard field goal on Alabama's second possession for a 3-0 lead, Shelley had a 42-yard attempt blocked by LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers with 11:57 to go in the first half. Shelley tends to kick the ball low on attempts longer than 41 yards, and Brockers' wingspan -- he's 6-foot-6 -- didn't help, either.

When Shelley went to the sideline, though, Saban encouraged him and told him to be ready to go again.

"He just told me he knew I had the range and that I was fine," Shelley said. "He told me just to hit it."

Shelley added two field goals (from 34 and 41 yards) in the final 4:18 of the first half to give the Crimson Tide a 9-0 lead at the break. He kicked two field goals in the third -- from 35 and 44 yards -- the second one making it 15-0 with 22 seconds left in the quarter.

Shelley missed a 41-yard attempt wide right with 5:38 to play.

"Jeremy did a great job in the game," Saban said. "We have a lot of confidence in Jeremy. He doesn't have great range, but when we get it down there by the 25-yard line he does a pretty good job for the most part. We got one blocked and he pushed one to the right a little bit. But we're just going to keep on giving him opportunities, and I think he did a great job."

It was a relief for Foster and Shelley. Foster took much of the heat after the loss to LSU, so much so that he shut down his Facebook account because of negative comments from fans.

"It was tough at first, but we had to put it behind us," Shelley said. "I never would have dreamed I'd have this opportunity."

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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