Begley learned valuable lesson against Florida

November 14, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Taylor Begley has learned some painful lessons this season.

The University of Kentucky placekicker had a knot appear in the upper part of his left leg early in the season. Then he stretched ligaments in his left ankle during pregame warmups against Mississippi State.

Begley, a left-footed kicker, didn't let either injury force him to miss a game. He even kicked six extra points against Mississippi State before telling anyone he was hurt.

But his most painful lesson came when he missed a 49-yard field in the final seconds of Kentucky's 24-21 loss to Florida. That kick would have tied the game and given UK, which blew a 21-3 lead, a chance to win the game in overtime. However, Begley's kick was well short.


"There have certainly been some ups and downs this year," said Begley, a former all-state kicker at Boyle County. "Of course, the Florida game hurts. The Lord got me through it."

He says his mistake against Florida was trying too hard on the final kick and letting that alter his normal routine.

"I learned you have to treat all kicks the same. You can't rush yourself even though it is a big situation," Begley said. "You have to hit all your balls the same. Against Florida, I tried to reach back and put too much into the kick. I went totally away from what I do every other time. That really threw everything off. You have to treat every kick the same whether the score is 100-0 or it is a game-winning kick."

Begley is 4-for-7 on field goal attempts this year. All three of his misses have been from 49 yards. Last year he was 4-for-6 on kicks over 40 yards or more. This season he's 1-for-4.

"Distance was not the problem against Florida. It's just a matter of staying clam. It's a lot like pitching in baseball. Whenever you try to reach back and throw as hard as you can, you will not throw as well as when you just relax and your mechanics are right. I tried to kill the kick against Florida. I won't do that again," Begley, a former high school baseball pitcher, said.

Going into Saturday's game at Nashville, Begley says he's as healthy as he'll be the rest of the season.

He says his ankle will only get back to 100 percent when he takes time to rest, something he won't do until after UK's final regular-season game against Tennessee Nov. 29.

"I'm as good as I'll be the rest of the season and that's good enough," Begley said. "The only time it really bothers me is when I make contact with the ball or when I'm running sprints. We only do one of those during a game, so I can kick with no problems."

He's 36-for-36 on extra points

He says mechanics that new special teams coach Steve Ortmayer worked with him to change during the off-season have helped him. He's 36-for-36 on extra points after missing six of 37 tries last year.

Begley has not had as many field goal tries because the Cats (4-5) have been so efficient inside the 20-yard line.

Going into Saturday's game at Vanderbilt, Kentucky has scored a touchdown on 24 of 30 times when it has reached the 20-yard line.

"The PAT (point after touchdown) is a lot better than a field goal attempt because that means you already have got six points on the (score)board and you are going for seven," Begley said. "I've done better on my extra points because I've hit higher balls.

"I am a lot more comfortable with my new mechanics now. The adjustments I made with coach Ortmayer prior to the season have helped me kick a straighter ball and be more accurate and consistent."

Begley knows Kentucky needs to win at least two of its remaining three games to earn a bowl bid. He's put daily pressure on himself at practice to hit long field goals just in case one is needed to win a game.

"You are never completely satisfied until you are perfect, but I feel like I've bounced back from adversity," Begley, who hit both his field goal tries in the seven-overtime loss to Arkansas, said. "I have not proven myself as well this year on the long ball and that's a source of motivation for me every day.

"I want to help us win all three games we have left. I would love to be in a situation to help us win a game and be perfect on my kicks. Coach Ortmayer says as long as the snap and hold are there, you should never miss a kick. He tells us before every game to start a streak and hit them all until you graduate. I hope I can do that, and help us win games."

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