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Citadel kicker puts missed tries behind, launches 'the perfect ball' when it matters most

Clemson vs The Citadel

Citadel kicker Jacob Godek (86) has made 2 of 4 field goals this season. File/Gwinn Davis/Special to The Post and Courier

The instant Jacob Godek’s foot connected with the football, The Citadel kicker knew the Bulldogs had won the game.

Godek didn’t even watch his game-winning 37-yard field goal soar through the goal posts against Georgia Tech last Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. He was too busy celebrating with Bulldogs holder Gage Russell and anyone else who could catch him as he sprinted down the field reveling in The Citadel’s 27-24 upset of the Yellow Jackets in overtime.

“When you kick the perfect ball, it kind of feels like you are kicking a pillow,” said Godek, a senior from Longwood, Fla. “It doesn’t take a lot of effort. It’s like hitting a perfect shot in golf. The second you see the ball going perfectly straight, you know you’ve made it. I knew when the ball left my foot it was good.”

The Citadel (1-2) had been 0-10 against Georgia Tech going into last Saturday’s game and 0-22 against ACC teams. The Bulldogs' last victory over an FBS team came in 2015 when they beat South Carolina, 23-22. Overall, The Citadel is 8-50 against FBS teams.

The victory came as a huge relief after close losses to Elon and Towson to start the season. The Bulldogs have plenty of momentum headed into Saturday’s game against cross-town rival Charleston Southern (0-3) at Johnson Hagood Stadium beginning at 6 p.m.

Godek said he wasn’t nervous as he trotted onto Grant Field in overtime with the game tied at 24, despite the fact that he’d never kicked a walk-off field goal in his high school or college career.

“That was my first,” Godek said. “I have never felt more confident for a kick in my entire life. I’m not really sure why. Winning like that, it’s a feeling I can’t describe, I can’t put it into words. I’ve never experienced that before, so for me, it was the best experience on the football field I’ve ever had.”

Godek missed a 50-yard attempt midway through the fourth quarter, but head coach Brent Thompson took the blame for that attempt.

“That one was on me,” Thompson said. “I didn’t put Jacob in a good position. I know where he likes the ball, which hash (mark) works best for him and we didn’t put him in the best position to succeed. We were going for the points in that situation.”

Thompson said he gave Godek a wide berth before the overtime kick.

“I didn’t say a word to him,” Thompson said. “I normally don’t say anything. If they try and ice the kicker, I usually walk away. He’s a senior, he knows what needs to be done out there. He’s made some big kicks for us in big moments.”

It hasn’t always been game-winning kicks and celebrations for Godek during his career with the Bulldogs. As a sophomore he struggled, making just 6 of 14 field goal attempts.

“I’d be fine in practice, but when I got into a game something just didn’t click for me,” Godek said. “I think most of it was mental. I lost my confidence.”

Last year, Godek missed his first goal attempt, a 21-yarder against Chattanooga in the second game of the season.

“It was the shortest attempt I had all season,” Godek said. “I didn’t let it get me down. I started to go with more mental reps during the games on the sidelines and that helped. I’d tell myself ‘I’m going to make this kick” when I was running on the field.”

Godek would go on to make 11 of 13 field goals, including nine straight and a 48-yarder as time expired in the first half against Alabama that sent the Bulldogs into the locker room tied 10-10 against the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide.

“He came to me after his sophomore season and was apologetic and I told him not to worry about it,” Thompson said. “Everything for Jacob comes down to timing; if he’s in a good rhythm, he’s going to make most of his kicks. He’s a senior and self-corrects himself as a senior.”

Thompson said upset wins like the one the Bulldogs had against South Carolina four years ago and last Saturday over Georgia Tech will pay dividends on the recruiting trail.

“It give us instant recognition, especially when we recruit in Georgia and the Atlanta area,” Thompson said. “That certainly helps with name recognition and the kids see the kind of football team we are and who we can play with.”

Thompson said Bulldogs starter Brandon Rainey, who was injured in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech, has improved but his playing status against Charleston Southern will be a game-time decision.

“We haven’t ruled Brandon in or out, but he’s gotten a lot better in the last couple of days,” Thompson said. “He has more range of motion, but time will tell.”

Backup Brian Murdaugh, who came in when Rainey was hurt against Georgia Tech, will be the starter if Rainey can’t play against CSU, with freshman Evan Schickel behind Murdaugh, Thompson said.

Reach Andrew Miller at 843-937-5599. Follow him on Twitter @APMILLER_PandC

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