After making 30 of 32 field-goal attempts, including a program-record 18 in a row, over the last two seasons at Penn State, Tyler Davis is dealing with the first slump of his college career, a 5-for-11 start to his senior season for the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions.
But head coach James Franklin doesn’t seem overly concerned and vowed Tuesday, “We’ll get it fixed.”
In his last two weeks, Davis is 3-for-7 on field goals, including a 1-for-3 performance in Saturday’s 45-14 victory over Indiana that saw him push a chip shot from 21 yards to the right and have the Hoosiers block a 42-yard attempt.
The Nittany Lions, who play at Northwestern on Saturday, have a new snapper in Kyle Vasey and a new holder in Billy Fessler this season. Of Davis’ six misses, two have been blocked and two could be pinned on a less-than-ideal snap and hold.
“We’re just going to continue to work through it,” Franklin said at his weekly teleconference. “We’ve got a new holder, we’ve got a new snapper. The blocks really aren’t on him. Our operation time was fine. I wouldn’t say the kicks were overly low. When you don’t block a guy through a gap and he comes screaming through free, then they’re going to block the kick.”
Davis is kicking off for the first time this season and Franklin said he will continue to do double duty: “We feel very comfortable with what he’s doing on kickoffs and we know he can be great as a field-goal guy.”
Franklin said he knows Davis is handling everything the right way, and has blamed only himself for the misses.
“I love Tyler Davis’ maturity and his leadership,” he said. “I asked him on the one field goal that he missed, not the one that was blocked, and he goes, ‘I missed it. I screwed it up.’ … When guys own their mistakes, as coaches, it helps you make the correction. It helps you move on.”
Other than the field-goal kicking, Franklin has been pleased with his special teams. The Nittany Lions scored two special-teams touchdowns Saturday – a 98-yard kickoff return by Saquon Barkley and a fumbled punt that Nick Scott scooped up and took 13 yards to the end zone.
They rank in the top 15 in FBS this week in three special-teams categories – kickoff returns (seventh), punt returns (12th) and punt coverage (15th).
“It’s the amount of time we invest in meetings on it,” Franklin said. “It’s the amount of time that we invest in practice. I’ve been in a lot of places and everyone talks about the importance of special teams, but if you look at meeting time, you look at practice time, it tells a different story. So for us, we’ve been investing in fundamentals, we’ve been investing in techniques, and it’s starting to pay off.”
Franklin declined to give an injury update on tight end Mike Gesicki, who left last week’s game in the third quarter, but said, “We expect Mike to play on Saturday.” Gesicki is tied for second on the team with 20 receptions, four for touchdowns. … The Big Ten honored Barkley as special-teams player of the week and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, who set Penn State’s record for career receptions, as co-offensive player of the week.