Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — When Andrew Baggett made a rare appearance at Missouri football’s media day Monday, he showed up with some bright teal Nikes on his feet. He probably won’t be wearing any cleats of that color this season.
“I bet I could (find some), but coach (Gary) Pinkel wouldn’t let me wear them,” he said. “I like to be under the radar.”
Last year, Baggett’s right foot was anything but. The junior, now in his third season as Missouri’s placekicker, missed two field goals against South Carolina in Missouri’s Homecoming game in 2013, including a 24-yard chip shot that would have sent the game to triple overtime.
The Tigers face the Gamecocks on Saturday for the first time since that kick — and Baggett said the miss is not on his mind.
“You just go out there and take each kick one at a time,” said Baggett, Missouri’s leading point scorer in 2013. “I don’t worry about the ones I’ve made before or the ones I’ve missed before. I don’t sit there and, ‘Oh, you better make this.’ It’s just kind of going, ‘All right. Do what I do in practice. Do what I do in games.’ Fifty-yard field goals are hit just like PATs are.”
Does Pinkel think the devastating miss off the north end zone uprights has stuck with his kicker?
“It probably hasn’t until (reporters) start talking to him,” Pinkel said jokingly. “No, I think you learn from those things. … This is not a game of perfect. You’re going to make mistakes and the most important thing is you learn from them.”
Baggett agreed he had learned from the experience. The Lee’s Summit North graduate said following his coaches’ instruction on positive thinking has helped him focus on the kick in front of him.
And, in a move only a kicker could pull off, he compared the process to doing homework.
“It’s kind of like class, it’s real easy to sit there and listen and go, ‘Oh, I understand this,’ and then when you do the homework, you have no idea what you’re doing,” he said. “And so when you actually do it, start practicing at it, you get better at it. You just go out there for each kick.”
Baggett made six of his eight field- goal attempts after the South Carolina loss, including 35- and 46-yarders in the Cotton Bowl. Earlier in 2013, he hit five field goals against Florida to tie a school record.
A third-team preseason all-Southeastern Conference selection this year, Baggett has hit four straight since missing his first two attempts — from 34 and 55 yards — in the Tigers’ opener. In his time at Missouri, he has hit 70.6 percent of his field-goal attempts and 94.4 percent of his extra points.
The Tigers travel to Columbia, S.C., coming off their first loss of the season, a 31-27 upset by Indiana, but Baggett built some confidence in defeat.
Baggett hit a 40-yard attempt to give the Tigers a 3-point lead with 2:20 remaining in the final quarter. It did not prove to be the game-winner, however, as Missouri squandered its lead on Indiana’s next drive.
Regardless, it was still a successful kick at a crucial time for the oft-criticized kicker.
“He gets in that moment when you’re up to bat with bases loaded and you’ve got to make the play, and he did it,” Pinkel said. “I think (players) gain a lot of confidence from those things.”
Of course, Baggett would have preferred to win.
“If I can miss every single kick but we would win, that’s what I’d rather do,” he said. “I’d rather walk away with a win. I’m not going to turn around and pat myself on the back that ‘Well, I did my job. That’s all that matters.’”
Still, he was able to put some of his “homework” to the test.
“I didn’t walk out Saturday for the 40-yarder freaking out that it might be something like South Carolina,” he said. “I walked out there saying, ‘All right, let’s make this.’”
And if all goes as planned Saturday, Baggett hopes he won’t be making any media day appearances.
“The best days I have are on Mondays when (reporters) don’t want to talk to me,” he said.