His stomach dropped when he saw the ball hit the upright.
“There is no worse feeling,” sophomore placekicker Andrew Baggett said. “I wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear for a day or two, but that doesn’t solve anything.”
Baggett didn’t do much the night after the game, but now he is trying to move past the missed field goal. The 24-yarder would have sent the game into triple overtime, but instead, it sent South Carolina storming across the field as the then-No. 5 Tigers fell to the then-No. 21 Gamecocks, 27-24.
Saturday’s contest against South Carolina was not Baggett’s best, despite the fact he was coming off a record-breaking game against Florida — kicking five field goals to break a record from 1992. With point after attempts included, Baggett outscored the entire Gator team. Baggett received national recognition for his performance.
Then Saturday happened. He missed the final field goal as well as one from 46 yards away. It was his worst game all season.
With that last bad kick, Baggett became the scapegoat, someone for fans to pin the blame on. But the ups and downs each week along with the negative criticism is just the life of a kicker, Baggett said.
“If I thought it was smooth sailing, I wouldn’t be a kicker,” he said. “I would be home watching TV or something.”
Coaches were quick were to come to support of their kicker.
“I could go back and change nine or 10 plays in the fourth quarter or in overtime that would change the game,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “You see the last play, so you point to the last play. That was a play.”
Quarterbacks coach Andy Hill compared it to dropping an easy touchdown, but he said you have to go back and catch the next ball and make the next kick.
After the ball ricocheted off the left upright, the game announcers and others pointed out that the laces on the ball were out, something that can affect the kick, but Baggett won’t make excuses.
“I missed it,” he said. “It does matter what those other things are. I have got to make that kick. If the ball is laying on the ground horizontal, I got to make that kick. I didn’t, and that’s on me.”
Baggett is 12-of-17 on field goals this season and 40-for-42 on extra points.
“I didn’t do my job,” Baggett said. “Do I want it back? Absolutely. Am I going to dwell on it? No.”
Baggett might not be dwelling on it, but fans are. After the game, some fans used Twitter to unleash a fury of hate, complete with curse words and homophobic slurs, on the placekicker.
Pinkel said he is bothered by the criticism but does not worry about Baggett’s mental status. The team has his back and will protect him.
“My players are like my kids,” he said. “I get bothered when people fire at a particular player. By the way, he was 5-for-5 in field goals and helped with a big win the week before. I understand fans are fans, but you know what, we are a family here and obviously I get frustrated.”
Baggett knows of the negative comments, but he said he has received more positive comments from Tiger fans.
“For the negative stuff, nobody’s comment will ever make me feel worse than I did on that field,” he said.
The kicker is now going to focus on Tennessee, the Tigers’ next opponent. Each game is a blank slate, and Baggett is leaving that missed field goal in the past because he can’t change it.
“What’s dwelling on it going to do for me?” Baggett said. “Life goes on. Sun came up. We are still here.”