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Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Decisions that defined Texas in 2012: No. 4

By Carter Strickland

Ah, decisions. Coaches make them and then everyone criticizes them. Of course, not all of them are bad. Many are celebrated. For Texas this year it a little bit of both. This week HornsNation will take a look at the top five critical decisions made by Texas and the result of each of those decisions. Today, at No. 4, is a look at Texas' kicking woes.

AUSTIN, Texas -- In the sprint to get top-five classes year in and year out, Texas was awed by individual talent in all the usual places and, because of that, justifiably so, loaded its plate.

Anthony Fera
Penn State transfer attempted just four field goals for the Longhorns this season, making two.
It’s kicking itself now. Not because of who Texas signed in the past few years. But because of what the Longhorns neglected to sign, a true field goal kicker. William Russ was signed as a punter in 2010.

Instead of securing a reliable backup for Justin Tucker, Texas waited until the last minute and put the onus on a true freshman to come in and fill the void. Mack Brown had luck going this route before with Dusty Magnum in 2001. And, quite frankly, Brown has been extremely blessed with solid, reliable kickers through his Texas tenure. (Before 2012 his kickers had hit eight game-winning field goals.) So maybe he took it for granted that 2012 would feature another one.

Still, panic started to seep when Texas began to realize its precarious kicking position. Russ had been tried at kicker in spring and failed. The staff placed phone calls to the club soccer team to try and find someone who could kick just in case incoming freshman Nick Jordan faltered.

They secured one player, Michael Davidson. He had never kicked a field goal in a game but worked out of Christmas break in order to be ready for his spring of 2012 tryout.

Then Anthony Fera, a transfer from Penn State, fell into Texas’ lap in August and it looked as if the Longhorns’ worries were over. When he showed up injured and was ineffective as a result, the consternation began anew.

When Jordan, the true freshman kicker signed to replace the reliable Tucker, missed four of his first seven attempts, the hand-wringing became frenzied. Texas, because it had not secured a backup to Tucker, was for the first time in Brown’s career without faith in its field goal kicking unit. (The 2009-11 recruiting classes featured kickers from Texas who went to Florida State, Kansas, Alabama, Notre Dame, Rice and Fera to Penn State.) No field goal attempts and going for it on fourth-and-2 at the Oklahoma State 19 in the fourth game only served to nail that point home.

Everything came to a boil against West Virginia. Fera, who had not kicked much at all in practice because of his injury, had been cleared to play. Jordan had been benched. And these were Texas’ options when it came time to attempt a game-tying 40-yarder late in the fourth quarter.

It would be only the second time ever Fera had attempted a kick at DKR. That he missed was not a shock, given the pressure, his lack of experience at Texas and his inability to properly prepare.

That Texas was not prepared for the situation because of its decision not to find a pure field goal kicker as a backup and eventual replacement for Tucker was a shock.