Nick Novak created a videotape Monday of every kick he has made in his college career -- all 74. The senior will keep it at the Gossett Team House to watch at least once before Maryland plays No. 5 Florida State on Saturday at Byrd Stadium.
Much of Novak's success throughout his career can be attributed to mental preparation. Should he miss a kick, any kick, he blocks it out, accentuates the positives and remembers all of the kicks he has made, some routine, many clutch.
Novak was considered before the season to be one of the best kickers in the country. He has made three-game winning kicks in his career and needs 52 more points to become the NCAA's career points leader. But he is not meeting his own expectations.
"I can tell you straight up," he said, "I'm not performing as good as I'd like to perform."
Novak described his confidence as "good" after missing field goal attempts of 38, 37 and 44 yards in the last three games, all losses. The 38-yard attempt he missed in the second quarter Saturday eventually proved crucial, as Maryland lost 10-7 at Clemson. He also missed a potential game-winning 49-yard attempt in the 19-16 overtime loss to West Virginia on Sept. 18.
Novak has missed five attempts this season. He missed eight last year. The difference now is that the team has a smaller window for error.
"Last year I could have gotten away with a miss or two and we would have still won the game," Novak said. "This year, as you can see, it's a different type of team and different type of offense, and each kick has to be made."
Novak's problem? To explain, he pointed to his head.
"I know exactly what I do," he said. "Usually my head comes up and I'm looking for that instant gratification instead of trusting myself and keeping my head down. If I do keep my head down, it usually goes straight and through the uprights. There is no need for that because I've been kicking so long."
Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said Novak has performed well in practice and that he has not lost any confidence in the kicker. Friedgen said the reason he did not attempt a field goal on fourth and six from the Clemson 36 on Saturday was not because he did not have faith in Novak. Instead, he wanted to boost his offense's confidence, which wound up not converting the fourth down.
Instead of looking back, Novak is focusing on the first kick he will attempt against the Seminoles.
"Obviously, I'm very hard on myself and critical on myself," Novak said. "The experience I have, our team being so young, I should go out and perform every time."
Berlin Bounces Back
All summer, the September game between Miami and Florida State was considered such a high-stakes game that the losing quarterback might eventually lose his job and the winning quarterback might vault into Heisman Trophy candidacy. More than midway through the season, that is exactly what happened after Miami's 16-10 win over Florida State.
The Seminoles have found success without Chris Rix, who sprained his ankle against Clemson and never regained his job from Wyatt Sexton. The Hurricanes (6-0, 3-0 ACC) have been led by Brock Berlin, who received ACC player of the week honors for the second straight week after throwing for 265 yards and tying a school record with five touchdown passes in Saturday's 45-31 win at North Carolina State.
Suddenly, boos have turned to cheers for the long-criticized quarterback who had more interceptions than touchdown passes last season.
"I think it just comes to show you that you don't want to listen to anything going on," said Berlin, who has consulted with several former Miami quarterbacks for advice. "You could be booed one week and they're saying good things about you the next week."
Added Miami Coach Larry Coker: "The thing that amazes me is that he has never flinched. There has certainly been a lot of criticism, as you are going to have as a quarterback, but he has never doubted himself."
Wake Gets Respect
Wake Forest (3-4, 0-4) is tied with Duke for the worst conference record, but coaches believe Jim Grobe's team is far better than its record indicates. The Demon Deacons have lost four games by seven points or less, including two in overtime.
"I can't believe they are the last-place team in this conference, or any conference," Bowden said. "I think they do one of the best coaching jobs in the United States. With one more play, we could be 7-0 right now. With four more plays, they could be 7-0. That's how close the conference has gotten." . . .
Bowden said yesterday that senior wide receiver Chauncey Stovall (hamstring) is doubtful for the Maryland game . . . ACC teams are only 13-10 in home games.