Husker kicker Drew Brown didn’t change mindset for key field-goal try

Husker kicker Drew Brown didn’t change mindset for key field-goal try
Photo Courtesy: World-Herald News Service

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Nebraska defense had plenty riding on Drew Brown as the kicker came out for a 39-yard field goal in the final minute Saturday.

If Brown made it, Indiana would likely have to go 75 yards and need a touchdown to win. With a miss, two or three quick strikes could get the Hoosiers in position for their own game-winning kick.

Though preparing mentally for either situation, NU defensive coordinator Mark Banker was pretty sure what Brown would do.

“Money,” Banker said. “Money.”

Nebraska’s offense had a stake in it, too. It had just held the football for nearly eight minutes after Indiana had closed to 24-22. The Huskers converted a fourth down near midfield and survived video review of a possible fumble a few plays later.

After receiver Brandon Reilly was dropped for a loss on a third-and-9 run, the senior was equally as confident in his teammate.

“Drew is as good a kicker as I’ve seen in the NCAA,” Reilly said, “and there was no doubt he was making that kick.”

Brown didn’t disappoint, splitting the uprights and giving Nebraska a 27-22 lead with 45 seconds left. Two plays later, the Husker defense snuffed out a desperate Indiana and NU was unbeaten at the midway point of the regular season.

“It’s what I live for,” Brown said. “Obviously making that kick, they had to score a touchdown … and I live for pressure kicks like that.”

Brown hasn’t seen many this season. He hasn’t had many opportunities of any kind.

The junior from Southlake, Texas, connected twice Saturday — starting with a 40-yard kick to finish the Huskers’ opening drive — and is now 5 of 6 on the season. He’s 16 of 17 going back to the middle of last season, with the only miss a 56-yarder against Illinois that coach Mike Riley later regretted trying.

“I’ve just got to rely on my abilities and rely on my focus,” Brown said. “Ultimately, seven points is better than three, and I couldn’t be happier when we score a touchdown. But whenever my name’s called — late in the game like that, or at the very first drive of the game — then I’m ready.

“Every situation has got to be the same for me, whether it’s a long kick or an extra point, and that’s the way you’ve got to approach it.”

Brown said he never worried Saturday about a blocked kick. Never considered kicking it with a slightly different arc just to be safe.

“I’ve got to control what I can control, and that’s making good contact with the ball and making the kick,” he said. “I trust the guys up front are going to do their job. They’ve got the hardest job of the whole equation. I’ve got the easiest one, and I’ve just got to be able to come through on my part.

“Zack (Darlington) did a great job on that last hold, and really holds the entire game. Jordan (Ober) did a great job snapping the ball, and all the other guys up front did a great job as well.”

Brown became the fourth Husker to reach 40 field goals. He is now 40 of 54 (74.1 percent) and trails Alex Henery (68), older brother Kris Brown (57) and Josh Brown (43) on NU’s all-time chart.

In the process, Brown has been a must-study every day for freshman punter Caleb Lightbourn.

“He’s really somebody that I look up to when it comes to the mental aspect of the game, and helping me out there,” Lightbourn said.

As Brown got ready for his final kick Saturday, Lightbourn was among those feeling pretty good about where it would go.

“I was like, ‘This is going through — 100 percent,’ ” he said. “Clutch kicks, that’s what he’s all about.”