Rewind the clock nine months, and remember the pressure that engulfed Williams-Brice Stadium on that cold November night.
After putting together a dominating first half against archrival South Carolina, the Tigers faltered down the stretch and trailed by one point with just a few minutes remaining.
Facing a 3rd-and-18 from near midfield, Cullen Harper completed a quick pass to Aaron Kelly for 14 yards to set up a critical fourth down play. Again Harper completed a pass to Kelly that gave the Tigers hope and a badly needed first down.
A few plays later, it came down to one play- a 35-yard field goal attempt from Mark Buchholz.
Having missed two kicks earlier in the game, Buchholz split the uprights, sending South Carolina to their fifth straight loss to end the season while also keeping the Gamecocks out of a bowl game.
As you would expect, after securing his place in the rivarly by drilling a pressure-packed game-winning kick, Buchholz is a little more recognized when he's away from the field these days.
"People recognize me more now, especially around here," he told CUTigers.com. "I get a lot of warm handshakes at different places and that's always nice to get that kind of support from the fans."
Now that he has exhausted his soccer eligibility and focused solely on football, Buchholz is also hoping to build on what he was able to accomplish last season.
And that's probably where the average fan gets a little confused.
While Clemson fans will always remember his game-winning kick against South Carolina, there are also a couple of games where Buchholz wasn't quite as accurate. However a closer inspection of his statistics reveals the true story.
Last year, in his first year actually seeing the field in a Clemson football uniform, Buchholz converted on 22-of-36 field goal attempts.
22 field goals in a single season isn't too bad. But in 36 attempts? Well that's a little bit of a different story.
Still, those statistics are somewhat deceiving.
You see Buchholz was almost automatic inside of 44 yards, converting 16-of-19 (84 percent) attempts. Nearly all of his misses came from 44 yards out or further.
"I think I attempted 15 or 16 kicks from over 44 yards, which was almost half my kicks. It seemed like every time I went out there it was another long kick. It wasn't like, 'oh I'm going to make this' it was like 'lets try to make this one.' It is a different mindset really."
As a former soccer standout, Buchholz will be the first tell you he expects to make them all, but even the best of the best playing in the NFL don't do that- especially from that distance.
The bottom line is Buchholz was probably used too much a year ago.
"I don't anticipate it being like that again [this season] where half my kicks are outside 45 yards again," he said. "But I'll take what comes to me and do my best to try and put it through the uprights no matter how far it is and help my team win."
Despite the lack of success from further away, Buchholz did connect on the first field goal of greater than 50 yards by a Clemson kicker in nearly 10 years in a 44-10 win over Wake Forest.
He's got the leg, it's just a matter of straightening things out a bit.
In addition, with his focus on football now, instead of football and soccer, he'll have the opportunity to rest his legs much more- which should help him in games. And it goes without saying playing two sports last fall, including flying up and down the east coast the night before a big game because of a his soccer obligations, certainly didn't help his concentration.
In fact, this coming season will be the first time in his life where soccer hasn't played a major role in Buchholz's daily routine.
"It's what I want to do [play football]," he said. "Even when I was playing football in high school I was playing soccer more. So I've never really had a 100 percent focus playing football. This is the first opportunity I've had to do that so I'm looking forward to that and to getting ready [for the season]."
Buchholz Back for More
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