Place kicker Jon Teague had been trying to convince Coach Ken Niumatalolo about his range on the bus ride over to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this afternoon before the start of the Midshipmen’s season opener against Delaware.
Teague indicated his maximum distance was 55 yards, but Niumatalolo remained a bit skeptical, so much so that he nearly didn’t send the senior onto the field toward the end of the first half for a career-long 54-yard attempt during a 40-17 victory this afternoon.
“I was nervous. I almost called a timeout and said if we miss it or it gets blocked, [Delaware] gets the ball right there” with good field position, Niumatalolo said. “A thousand things went through my mind in five seconds. But I trusted the kid.”
Teague’s kick was on its downward trajectory as it approached the uprights, but the wind-aided ball cleared the crossbar with room to spare to expand Navy’s lead to 19-7 with 25 seconds to play. It was the second field goal of the game for Teague, whose 36-yarder in the second quarter had bumped the lead to 16-0.
“I knew my range. I kicked there pregame,” Teague said. “I hit a few 52s, 53s in pregame, and with that wind picking up a little bit, I assumed it was about 55 and luckily it went even farther than that.”
Teague’s previous long was 38 yards, and his two field goals on Saturday were as many as he made all last season when he primarily was used for kickoffs and Joe Buckley handled field goals and extra points. This season Teague is handling all the kicking duties, and his only blemish against the Blue Hens was getting an extra point blocked late in the first quarter.
It was the first extra point Teague has missed in his career after going 16 for 16 last year and 5 for 5 in 2009. The blocked kick wound up meaning next to nothing, though, as Navy rolled up 437 yards from scrimmage, including 391 rushing, went 4 for 4 from the red zone and committed zero penalties to win its first season opener in three years.
Last season Teague got a chance to be the field goal and extra points place kicker in three games when Buckley was injured, and he converted all his attempt. Teague’s effort on Saturday was part of a sound overall showing from the special teams, which included freshman punter Pablo Beltran’s only attempt that went for 47 yards with no return.
“We did some good things on special teams,” Niumatalolo said. “Jon Teague’s kick at the end of the first half was huge because we knew if they had the ball at the end of the half, plus they were going to start the second half [with possession], for them to get any type of momentum [could have been damaging], so that kick was huge.”