The sophomore from Colorado Springs, Colo., made his only field goal try, a 56-yarder with plenty of distance to spare, and none of his five kickoffs were returned out of the end zone. For his performance in the 31-24 victory over the Cardinals he was named SEC Special Teams Player of the week.
Carlson almost didn’t get a chance to try his field goal, which is one yard shy of the school record set in 1976 by Neil O’Donoghue vs. Tennessee and matched in 2003 by Philip Yost vs. Western Kentucky.
“Originally, we got out the punt unit,” he said. “They were trying to figure out if we could kick it and I was over in Coach (Gus) Malzahn’s ear telling him, ‘let me have a chance, let me have a chance.’
“We switched it at kind of the last second so we got the kick off with probably one second on the play clock,” Carlson said. “I didn’t really have time to think much before the kick. I was just trying to make sure everybody was set and, sure enough, we got it off. I connected really well and everybody did their job up front.”
Carlson noted that he was certain he could make the field goal. “I had a lot of confidence. I didn’t think there was any chance of me hitting it short.”
With walk-on transfer Kevin Phillips emerging as a solid punter and true freshman Ian Shannon as his backup, Carlson is not expected to have to handle the punting duties, something he wasn’t expecting to do in college when he signed with the Tigers.
Asked if concentrating on kicking has helped him improve this season, Carlson said, “That was my first game just kicking and I was able to focus in a lot more and be able to relax and not have to worry about punting. Kevin did great punting and I am excited about that.”
Carlson and the Tigers will look to improve to 2-0 as they play their home opener at 11 a.m. CDT on Saturday vs. Jacksonville State. It will be the first time the Tigers have faced the Gamecocks in football. JSU is 1-0 with a 23-20 win at Chattanooga in game one after posting a 10-2 record last season.