Reboot: The Blair Walsh project
Kicker believes 53-yard field goal in last game has gotten his game back in gear
ATHENS, Ga. -- For all the accomplishments in Blair Walsh's college career, last Saturday's 59-0 win against Coastal Carolina brought a number of firsts for the senior kicker.
Not only did Walsh break Georgia's all-time record for made PATs, he drilled a career-long 56-yard field goal and topped off a memorable day by recovering a fumbled kickoff as the Bulldogs (1-2) earned their first victory.
Walsh has rarely suffered from a shortage of confidence, but he needed a boost when coach Mark Richt sent him out to try the 56-yarder early in the third quarter. Walsh had missed his previous two field-goal tries -- a 33-yarder against South Carolina and a 42-yard attempt earlier against Coastal Carolina that didn't count because of a Chanticleers penalty -- and a hamstring strain had damaged his ability to kick with his typical power and accuracy.
Hammering a career-long field goal under low-pressure circumstances -- the Bulldogs led 35-0 at the time -- was exactly what he needed, Richt said.
"He just wasn't himself I would say," Richt said. "And drilling that one, and the next couple kickoffs were phenomenal, so I think he's back. That was good medicine for him."
Walsh left no doubt on the 56-yard kick, blasting it so far past the crossbar that it very well could have threatened Brandon Coutu's school record of 58 yards without a tee, and possibly former Bulldog Kevin Butler's SEC record of 60 with the help of a tee.
"It's kind of like watching a pro golfer absolutely just crush a tee ball and just ripping it down the fairway. That's exactly what it was like," said Drew Butler, Walsh's holder. "I think it could've been good from 65. He absolutely drilled it."
The kick capped a day where Walsh became Georgia's career leader for PATs with 153, moving past Billy Bennett's 148.
Already the school's record holder with 119 consecutive made PATs between 2008 and 2010, Walsh is also closing in on another of Bennett's career milestones. Walsh has scored 327 career points, putting him on pace to threaten Bennett's SEC record of 409 before the end of the season.
Walsh sits third on the school's career scoring list, with Kevin Butler -- the father of Georgia's punter and Walsh's holder -- next on the list with 353 points.
"He's truly one of the best that's ever come through here," Drew Butler said. "In the long lineage of kickers who have been here, that's definitely something to be proud of. The records that he's going to break this year and the records he's already broken, it's pretty awesome."
Drew Butler wants to help Walsh break his father's record for longest field goal, saying he believes Walsh could connect from 65 yards under the right conditions.
Walsh said 60 yards would be a reasonable goal and joked that he would prefer that his offense never put him in position to go longer.
"It'd be nice to try, but hopefully we'll be scoring touchdowns instead," he laughed.
Regardless of the length he might achieve in the future, the kick last Saturday did wonders for the two-time Lou Groza Award semifinalist. Walsh was admittedly out of sorts in the Bulldogs' first two-plus games, but he believes connecting on an insignificant field goal in a largely insignificant win has put him back on track.
"I just hadn't gotten into a rhythm yet," Walsh said. "At the start of the season, I always start with a long field goal for some reason every year, and I just haven't had it yet. I wanted to get in a rhythm and I feel like this last kick is going to sort of propel me into it."
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.