Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — At the beginning of the year, it looked as if the only thing that could stop Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett from setting the school scoring record was an injury. Or maybe a bad year.
And yet, a healthy Baggett making field goals at the best percentage of his career still finds himself 10 points from Jeff Wolfert’s mark of 362 with one game to go, maybe two.
Such is the reality this season for a player whose scoring opportunities lie in the hands of the Missouri offense.
Baggett began the year needing 70 points to match the record. He averaged more than 97 points his first three years and never scored fewer than 75 in a year. This year, he’s making his field goals at a 78.9 percent clip and has yet to miss an extra point.
Alas, the Tigers are scoring fewer points per game than all but two teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and Baggett’s numbers have suffered.
“Other years we were just kind of rolling over teams, and it feels almost like I was actually wearing out my leg,” Baggett said. “It’s not always like that.”
This year in particular. Though Missouri still has today’s game with Arkansas and potentially a bowl game to play, Baggett’s 19 field-goal attempts would be a career low for the senior. He had 20 his freshman year and 25 each of the last two seasons.
“I have less opportunities this year,” Baggett said, “just because we’ve got to get touchdowns, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Unfortunately for Baggett’s point total, needing to get touchdowns and actually scoring them are two different things. The biggest reason he’s falling short of his average scoring total? He has attempted all of 15 extra points this year, compared to an average of more than 50 from 2012-14.
And while the Tigers have hardly been able to take any red-zone appearances for granted — they’ve been there just 29 times this year — it’s not as if Baggett is missing opportunities because of an abundance of fourth-down conversion attempts. Missouri has gone for it on fourth down 14 times this season, fewer than any of Baggett’s first three seasons.
Missouri’s most recent game, a 19-8 loss to Tennessee, didn’t afford Baggett a single kicking attempt. Only three of Missouri’s drives that night reached Tennessee territory and the Tigers opted for a 2-point conversion after their lone touchdown.
When Baggett booted the ensuing kickoff, it was the only time the four-year starter stepped on the field on Senior Night.
But Baggett said he was more disappointed by the game’s result than his lack of participation.
“Part of it is I just hate losing,” he said. “If we had to go for 2 every single time but we won, I wouldn’t care. It’s not about me getting kicks and me getting to play and stuff like that. I just want to win games.”
Still, Baggett’s points total and Missouri’s win total would both benefit if the Tigers were able to move the ball downfield. Missouri ranks 124th nationally in scoring, and is tied for 121st in first downs.
Fittingly, the Tigers might set a different type of special-teams record this season. Freshman Corey Fatony is approaching the school mark for most punts in a season. He needs six to match Jason Smith’s record of 79 set in 1995.
Fatony punted nine times Saturday, something he’s done three times this year. The number has taken its toll on the Franklin, Tenn., product.
“It’s not the number of kicks, but it’s just a college season,” Baggett said. “I mean, he’s not used to it. We’ve had a couple weeks where we’re getting to the beginning of the week and start getting to practice, and he’s saying how he’s tired and sore.
“… That’s just part of college is that it’s more kicks, longer season, colder weather. He’s not from Missouri. He’s never played in 28 degrees.”
Fatony is averaging 43.2 yards per punt, which would rank seventh all-time at Missouri.
As for Baggett, his 78.9 field-goal percentage this year (15-of-19) would be tied for seventh in school history. Yet, he doesn’t feel he is having his best year.
“There’s a couple kicks I’d like back over this season,” he said, “but I just want to finish strong.”