- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2005

Nick Novak watched the first field-goal attempt of his NFL career get sent back to him, thanks to a strong rush from the Seattle Seahawks.

The rookie from Maryland finished in much more satisfying fashion, kicking the game-winner — a 39-yarder — in overtime to keep the Washington Redskins undefeated.

Welcome to the odd life of Novak, who finished his college career as the leading scorer in ACC history and who began this season unemployed.

“It’s tough to think about the magnitude of what just happened,” said Novak, who also kicked a 40-yarder. “All I really know is we are 3-0.”

Novak actually had to kick the game-winner twice.

Novak was kicking into a net on the sideline when quarterback Mark Brunell completed a pass to Santana Moss that put the Redskins at the Seattle 15 on the first possession of overtime.

On first down, Brunell dove to the middle of the field to give Novak a straight shot at a 34-yard field goal on second down.

Chaos ensued, and coach Joe Gibbs tried and failed to get a timeout to settle the situation.

“I didn’t realize we were kicking a field goal,” Novak said. “I saw John [Hall] yelling at me to get out there. I was sprinting. I saw we were down to four seconds left [on the play clock]. I just got back to my stance. I didn’t even take my steps. I heard the whistle. I just went though my approach and treated it like it was going to happen.”

Novak nailed the kick, but it was too late: The whistle blew, and the Redskins were penalized 5 yards for delay of game. The 24-year-old, playing in just his second NFL game, took a moment to collect himself. Then he coolly and easily delivered the kick through the uprights to give Washington a 20-17 win.

“Ice water,” said Redskins safety Ryan Clark of Novak. “It is crazy. He probably doesn’t understand right now. He is getting himself a job somewhere else if John Hall comes back. Nick Novak, right now, is going to be an NFL kicker.”

Novak is only in the NFL because Hall missed the last two games with a quadriceps injury. He has made the most of his limited time. He kicked the game-winning extra point late in the fourth quarter in Washington’s 14-13 win at Dallas on “Monday Night Football” and made a potentially game-saving tackle on the ensuing kickoff.

Novak was cut by the Bears and Cowboys in the preseason and didn’t make the roster after a tryout with the Ravens.

He did not seem to mind when his first kick in overtime yesterday was waved off because of the penalty.

“I think it helped,” he said. “It was just getting an opportunity to go through my routine. I hit a good ball. I just needed to keep my head down and kick it the same way.”

It was a spectacular end to a day that began poorly for the kicker, who spent Saturday at the Virginia-Maryland game and received a brief pep talk from Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen.

The Redskins drove 50 yards on their first possession before stalling at the Seattle 21. Novak, who did not attempt a field goal against Dallas, trotted on for the 39-yard attempt.

The snap and hold were good, and Novak said he felt good when he hit the ball. But the Seahawks’ Craig Terrill barreled through the middle of the line and blocked the kick.

The Redskins drive of more than seven minutes resulted in no points, and Novak’s career seemed like it might be over before it started.

“I just wanted to get out and do it again, just prove that I can make the next one,” Novak said. “I just tried to stay calm and be ready mentally, stay loose on the sidelines and make sure I have no regrets — just go out there and kick the ball like I know how to.”

He did just that in the third quarter, giving the Redskins a 17-10 lead on his 40-yard kick with 4:07 left in the period.

In overtime, Novak became the hero, and the unheralded and recently unemployed rookie is quickly becoming a proven commodity.

“To hit one and probably have a mental breakdown thinking he won the game and come back and hit it again is a tremendous accomplishment,” Redskins offensive tackle Jon Jansen said, “especially for a young kid.”

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