Navy place kicker Jon Teague stepped onto the field Saturday with less than five minutes to play and the game in the balance, facing a 34-yard field goal attempt that would put his team ahead of Rutgers ahead by two. Minutes earlier, the senior had connected from 41 yards into a stiff breeze, so he said he wasn’t thinking about previous foibles.
But as he swung his leg through the ball, Rutgers’s Brandon Jones came racing around the left side to block it, and the Midshipmen eventually absorbed their second one-point loss in three games, 21-20. It was the third week in a row Teague had a kick blocked, and all were costly.
Last week, Teague’s 29-yard field goal try in the first quarter against Southern Miss was blocked and returned 79 yards for the first points of the game in a 63-35 blowout loss. The previous week against Air Force, Teague had to try a 35-yard extra point in overtime; it was blocked, and Navy fell to its hated rival, 35-34.
“I just try to take every kick the same,” said Teague, whose eyes were noticeably red as he answered questions outside the Navy locker room at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscatway, N.J. “It’s just tough that it comes down to the last one though these few times. We’ve got to keep finding ways to bounce back.”
Part of that is sure to include a thorough examination of the kicking game. Teague’s kicking trajectory had been lower than usual in recent weeks, and he practiced on his own this week at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium when the team was at Rip Miller Field.
But Rutgers’s Jones was able to swoop in untouched to foil the potential go-ahead field goal Saturday. It appeared no Navy player had lined up to block Jones, who dove with both arms stretched to knock down the ball.
“I’m not sure the timing of it, but regardless of what it is, we have been jimmy-rigging our protection and changing things, trying to do different things,” Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We have to go back to work. We have to get it fixed.”
The solution, though, probably won’t include switching place kickers. Next on depth chart behind Teague is sophomore Steven Picchini, who has never attempted a kick in a game situation.
Teague is 6 of 9 on field goals this season, including a 54-yard that established a school record. He’s also kicked off each of the last four seasons and has the strongest leg on the team.
“We just have to get the ball up higher and quicker,” Niumatalolo said. “We have to protect better. It’s a combination of both. [Teague] is our best guy. We have to get better. Some of the kicks have been low, and some of it has been our protection. It’s a hard way to lose a game.”