Game Winning Kick Boosts Christensen

After he hooked his first field goal of the game right Saturday at Ole Miss, Jamie Christensen could have fallen apart.

Kickers can be a mentally delicate sort, and few would have been truly surprised had Christensen, an inexperienced placekicker, suffered a crisis of psyche.

Instead, just the opposite happened.

The University of Alabama sophomore kicker nailed the next two kicks he tried – including a 31-yard field goal on the last play of the game, which lifted the No.5 Crimson Tide to a 13-10 victory at Oxford, Miss.

Monday, Christensen was honored as the SEC's Special Teams Player of the Week. It is another sign that the Norcross, Ga., native is handling the placekicking pressure cooker quite well.

"Last year (as a kickoff specialist) I was kicking with the same amount of people there," he said recently. "You can't let how many people are around bother you. I kick every day in practice and kick off every day. During the games, there are just more people watching."

Through five games, Christensen has nailed eight-of-11 field goals and 15-of-16 extra point tries. He has clearly solidified his hold on both kicking jobs, a surprising development considering the rocky start he experienced this fall.

An undisclosed violation of team rules benched him for the opener against Middle Tennessee State, and backup Ryan Saxby performed well in his absence.

Christensen won his job back for the Southern Miss game, but struggled mightily. He missed a field goal and an extra point and performed poorly on kickoffs, and his job appeared in jeopardy.

"It was horrible. Horrible," he said. "One of the worst feelings in my life. I couldn't make the transition from kicking extra points to kicking off. I'd get too much air under the ball, hang the ball up there. Our coverage team did a great job getting down there and making tackles, but there's really no excuse for that."

After a week's worth of adjustments, Christensen made a huge rebound at South Carolina, nailing all three field goals he tried in the Tide's 37-14 rout.

That solidified his job, and set him up for Saturday's heroics. Christensen's 31-yard field goal capped off Alabama's first game-winning final drive since Nov. 7, 1998.

Special teams coordinator Dave Ungerer thinks Christensen has huge potential. His predecessor, Brian Bostick, was an All-SEC kicker last year. But Ungerer thinks Christensen has bigger upside than Bostick.

"He's got the potential to be very, very good," Ungerer said recently. "Whether he can get it all going in the right direction on a consistent basis is the question right now. The difference between he and Brian is that, you know, Brian was very steady, didn't have a big leg. (Christensen) has a chance to be a guy that can hit them from 50, without a problem, if he can get all the other things worked out."

That means being accurate. And Christensen said that shouldn't be a problem, as long as he can repeat his motion, over and over again.

"I have the leg strength, I'm not worried about that," he said. "But when it comes to accuracy, you have to have a plant, and if your jab step is a little too big, it throws your plant off. Accuracy is about technique, making sure you're in the same position every time, and that's going to help you get your accuracy down as well."

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