ATHENS — Talk about the difference a couple of weeks makes. Rodrigo Blankenship has gone from the kicker Georgia never wanted to go to the Bulldogs’ go-to kicker.
Perhaps “Respect the Specs” extends to the Bulldogs’ head coach as well.
“I’m really proud of him,” Kirby Smart said after the game.
For the second consecutive week, Georgia’s walk-on kicker and budding star recorded the game-winning points for his team. This time it came on a 45-yard field with 13:44 to play in the game. He also made a 21-yarder to increase the margin in the final minutes.
Last week, Blankenship made four field goals, including the game-winner as time expired.
Clearly, he’s a confident kicker at this point.
“It’s more about placing confidence in the coaches,” Blankenship said following the 13-7 upset of No. 8 Auburn. “My ability to make as many field goals as I can during the week is to make sure that the coaches feel confident in me.”
It has been a whirlwind week for Blankenship since making those four kicks against Kentucky. His outspoken father revealed to DawgNation that, because of financial pressures, his son would likely have to leave Georgia if he is not placed on scholarship after this season.
“I’m just trying to focus on everything’s that’s under my power, anything I can control,” said Blankenship, who is now 11-of-13 on field goals this season. “A lot of that other stuff is out of my control. So I’m just trying to really focus in every week and make sure that I’m worrying about myself.”
Blankenship had one other attempt in the game, a 49-yarder in the third quarter. It came up just short of the cross bar. Blankenship made a 49-yarder against Kentucky.
“It felt like a good hit coming off my foot, but there was some wind coming against us,” Blankenship said. “I saw it start to hang and die down at its apex and I knew it wasn’t gonna make it.”
Blankenship wasn’t just getting it done on placement kicks. He also had three touchbacks, including one that hit the crossbar as it went through the uprights of Auburn’s goal. The only return by the Tigers came on the last kick from three or four yards deep in the end zone.
“Rodrigo was great for our kick coverage,” Smart said. “I mean, look what he did. He hit the dang (cross bar). He got into it.”
Blankenship was disappointed Auburn was able to return any of his kicks. It speaks to the level of perfection he’s trying to achieve with the assistance of student assistant coach Kevin Butler, the Bulldogs’ Hall of Fame former kicker.
“I couldn’t see how deep it was,” he said of the return that was stopped on the Auburn 16. “I thought it was only two or three yards deep. But at that point, why not try to bring it out? I didn’t place it like I wanted to. I wanted to put it outside the right hash and maybe that would have discouraged a return. But I left it in the middle of the field, so I wasn’t surprised he brought it out.”
Blankenship’s popularity has continued to soar with his success. He has become a somewhat of a college-football culture icon, with his oversized prescription googles, pencil-thin mustache and penchant for always keeping his helmet on, even during interviews.
But he is not about to act like he has arrived. As ever, Blankenship insists he’s fighting got his job every week.
“Well, anything can happen,” the redshirt freshman from Marietta said. “(William) Ham is a talented kicker, too. He had a really hot foot early in the season. It’s a battle every week. Even now, it’s still a battle every week.”