COLUMBIA, Mo. – In the final minutes, William Ham and Rodrigo Blankenship traded spots, one taking a few strides and a practice kick into a net, followed by the other. It wasn’t clear which one might be called upon to try a game-winning extra point. It wasn’t clear either of them knew either.
In the end it was Ham, who rewarded the faith of his head coach and his famous student assistant by booting through the extra point, the final difference in Georgia’s 28-27 win at Missouri.
But it was also clear that the coming week would lead to more competition in the kicking game. And perhaps some soul-searching.
“We’ve gotta kick better,” Smart said afterward.
Ham, the sophomore place-kicker, had close to a nightmare game: He missed field-goal attempts of 23 and 38 yards, two makeable field goals that would have been the difference if Jacob Eason had not found Isaiah McKenzie in the end zone in the final two minutes.
Because of Ham’s struggles, head coach Kirby Smart consulted with Kevin Butler, the student assistant for kicking, to decide whether Ham should be pulled from place kicks. They opted to keep him for extra points, because after all he was 3-for-3 on those.
“We both kind of talked about going with Rodrigo on the next field goal,” Smart said. “But I went back to him on the two-minute drive and said, ‘Hey if we score here what do you think.’ We both agreed that Ham had hit those extra points, and we felt confident that he could do it.”
Ham is now 3-for-7 on field-goal attempts season, with the three made ones all coming inside the 30. But switching to Blankenship, the redshirt sophomore, isn’t a no-brainer.
Ham may have been nearly pulled from place-kicking Saturday, but Blankenship was pulled from his kickoff job. After a couple that were too short, Ham was put on kickoffs. Neither did great: Zero touchbacks in five combined kickoffs, with Blankenship averaging 61 yards in the air and Ham averaging 52.
Three games in, it will be debated whether Georgia should have been more aggressive in finding a kicker, and whether it will be on the recruiting trail. Ham and Blankenship are walk-ons, and Smart has said he believes it’s not necessary to get a good kicker by offering a scholarship. He may have to revisit that.
But for now, these are Georgia’s best options.
“Look, I like both of those kids,” Smart said. “They’ve both got to step up, and grow. It’s time to kick the ball. They kick the ball good in practice. Go kick it in the game. You know? It’s a confidence factor. They don’t have confidence right now, and they’ve got to go get it.”