The Kick III

Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach saw it the way almost everyone else did, probably. "It didn't look very good when it left his foot," Leach said of Christensen's 45-yard field goal that won the Cotton Bowl for Alabama Monday. "I don't know what you guys thought," Leach told reporters, "but I had high hopes for it not being good at that point."

Mike Leach is a very good football coach who probably wouldn't make it on the comedy club circuit, but he did draw a laugh when he then asked, "Did he make it?"

Jamie Christensen made Alabama a 13-10 winner of the 70th annual Cotton Bowl game against Texas Tech Monday when his kick sailed just inside the left upright and just over the crossbar as time expired. "When I hit the ball, I knew it was accurate, but I wasn't exactly sure if it was going to go in or not," Christensen said. "I just had to wait for the referees back there."

Alabama Coach Mike Shula could joke afterwards that "There was never a doubt."

But Shula was serious when he pointed out, "This guy has kicked three game-winning field goals."

Christensen's kick was hardly a thing of beauty. He caught it heavy and it spun helicopter-like rather than turning over.

"The grass is a little thicker than I'm used to, almost like AstroTurf" Christensen said. "I caught some grass and it wasn't as clean as I would have liked. I knew it was accurate. I had a good follow through, kept my head down. I just didn't know it if had enough distance. The wind may have helped it."

Christensen hadn't been worried about the distance. "I kicked a 56-yarder in warm-ups," he said.

Late in the game with Texas Tech in Alabama territory and trailing by seven points, Christensen said he told freshman Tide kicker Andrew Friedman, "If they score a touchdown, I'm going to win the game with a field goal."

Christensen was alone as he waited on his opportunity. "The guys know to leave me alone," he said. "I was in the back kiicking into the net. I spent the time reminding myself of the little things: head down, jab step, follow through."

He said, "There is no way to prepare for a game-winning kick. You can't feel pressure. You have to have confidence."

Christensen has been in the same position before, breaking a tie at the gun to beat Ole Miss and kicking a three-pointer with 13 seconds to play in a 6-3 win over Tennessee. He said this one was most special.

"All three were great," he said, "but this one is more special because it's the last game for our seniors and because it was in the Cotton Bowl and because it gives us a 10-win season. It's a dream come true." He said he particularly appreciated the job of "Brodie Croyle and Matt Miller and all the guys to get it down there and give me the opportunity.

And what did his teammates say to him?

"They said it was the ugliest kick of the year," Christensen said.


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