Navy Place Kicker Buckley Settles Into Primary Role

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Joe Buckley's first college field goal attempt wasn't a potential game-winner, but it still came with a certain amount of pressure. Navy was already trailing Louisiana Tech by 14 points when the junior place kicker lined up for a 43-yard field goal with 4 minutes 31 seconds left in the first quarter on Saturday. He split the uprights and put the Midshipmen's first points on the board in their 32-14 win.

Buckley was a little nervous going into Navy's first game, at Ohio State, but was only called on for extra points; he converted all three.

"This game at home, I felt a lot more comfortable. I felt like the team had my back," Buckley said. "Going into the season, they didn't know how I was going to kick. It was nice to prove myself on some extra points at Ohio State, which are kind of expected, but it's still nice to see them go through. After getting that 43-yarder at home, it kind of helped me settle a little bit."

Against Louisiana Tech, Buckley went 3 for 3 on extra points. Just before halftime, he pushed a 34-yard attempt wide left.

"I wish we had made that field goal before the half," Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "But he's getting better. Hopefully his confidence will continue to grow."

Last season, the Midshipmen had great confidence in senior Matt Harmon, who set a program record with 19 field goals (out of 22 attempts). Buckley and sophomore Jon Teague battled throughout the preseason to replace him, and Buckley was named the winner a few days before the season opener. Teague continues to handle kickoffs and could be used on long-range field goal attempts, Niumatalolo said.

The competition between Buckley and Teague is reminiscent of what Harmon went through prior to his senior season with Joey Bullen, Buckley said. And that can only help both him and Teague.

"The more competition we have in practice, the more experience both of us get, the easier big kicks will be, and the easier kicks will become automatic," Buckley said. "I think with time, we'll just get more reliable."

Defensive Accolades

In a news conference on Monday, Pittsburgh Coach Dave Wannstedt, whose team hosts the Midshipmen on Saturday, said he was impressed with how Navy played on defense against Ohio State. The Panthers' defense, which gave up 500 yards to Buffalo in a 54-27 win last Saturday, needs to improve, particularly given "the Midshipmen's precision and efficiency on offense," Wannstedt said. . . .

Navy will host Alabama-Birmingham in 2016 and travel to Birmingham in 2017, according to the Birmingham News. It will be the first meetings between the programs.

For more Navy coverage, visit Mids Insider at voices.washingtonpost.com/mids-insider.

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