Navy kicker Jon Teague, like most players at his position, want consistency above all else.
The same mechanics, the same thought process and, if all goes right, the same results.
It helps when all the variables remain the same. So it was a bit hectic when a 20-yard extra point turned into a 35-yard kick after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in Saturday’s loss to Air Force.
“It kind of was,” Teague said. I try to keep my focus the whole time. I didn’t even know it was a 15-yard penalty until the ref started backing the ball up. I was like ‘What’s he doing?’ Then I was like ‘Oh no.’”
Teague’s attempt was blocked, low from the start. Navy held a tenuous 34-28 lead at that point, and Air Force promptly scored a touchdown —- and added its own extra point —- on its next possession.
It was part of an entirely up-and-down day for the senior, who earlier this season set an academy record with a 54-yard field goal. Against the Falcons, he also missed a 26-yarder. Of course, he had the third best kickoff average of his 44-game career, connected from 37 yards late in the fourth quarter to pull Navy within 28-20 and then had a sublimely executed onside kick to get the Mids possession again.
It was easy to forget the rest of the afternoon thanks to a single kick Teague tried to treat like any other.
“Every kick is the same in football,” Teague said. “For me, I’m going to approach the extra point the same as I’m going to approach the 54-yarder I hit. You want to keep your consistency and keep your kick straight. The extra point should finish 40 yards past the uprights. On that kick, I didn’t really change anything. Ironically, I didn’t want it to get blocked, so I wanted to get a quicker time and wanted to get the ball up. Once I hit the ball, I knew it had a chance, but I knew I didn’t kick it as high and they just got a hand on it.”
Coach Ken Niumatalolo said he talked briefly with Teague after the game, but didn’t plan to broach the subject with him again.
“The kid’s done a lot for our program,” Niumatalolo said. “He had a heck of an onside kick. We’re not even in that situation if it wasn’t a perfect onside kick. I have great faith in the kid that he’ll bounce back. He’s a resilient kid, just rest of the guys on this team. He’ll be fine.”
That will be determined over the next three months. Navy (2-2) needs four more victories to become bowl eligible. It still has its annual dates with Notre Dame and Army. Odds are, Teague will be needed to help win a few games down the stretch for a team that plays plenty of close contests.
And that’s what he plans to do.
“You just have to get it past it,” Teague said. “Col. [John] Kennedy [Navy’s officer representative] came up to me and he told me some really good advice. He said ‘Don’t let Air Force beat you the next nine games, either.’ You can’t dread on one kick.”
—- Patrick Stevens