If kickers fail, so could the Tigers

Alex Peterson: "The only way I miss (inside 40 yards) is if I'm lazy and don't do what I'm taught to do."

You would have thought there was a mighty wind at Tuesday's practice, the way the ball was going left of the goalposts.

Alex Petterson and Mike Matheny were both having their problems on Tuesday, the only practice that is open to the media each week. Both were hooking almost every kick left. And no, there was no wind, just a lot of heat, which is what both of the kickers have to be feeling going into Saturday's matchup against Illinois.

The word "Illinois" has to have Petterson shaking. It was last season's opener against the Illini where Petterson lost the kicking job and had to sit out the rest of the season with a redshirt. Petterson missed an extra point, and he had a field goal attempt blocked. Lucky for the Tigers, Brad Smith had enough that day to overcome it.

Alex Petterson in practice

Mizzou might not be so lucky again.

Tuesday was an anomaly for Petterson, who has been so dead-on accurate this summer from 40 yards in that Pinkel, who rarely announces any kind of depth chart information in the summer, announced him No. 1. Meanwhile, Matheny, who was Honorable Mention All-Big 12 last season, has been putting them wide left all summer. The Columbia native has had trouble finding the solutions to his mistakes, and Petterson has snuck in.

After last season's game against Illinois, Petterson was like a deer in the headlights talking to the press. He stuttered while he looked for the right words. He didn't seem to have the kicker's psyche to get over it and move on. These days, Petterson is still quiet, still shy, but he seems to have the confidence this time.

"I've had more reps and I'm more comfortable back there," Petterson said. "The only way I miss (inside 40 yards) is if I'm lazy and don't do what I'm taught to do."

The Tigers better hope Petterson doesn't get lazy, and that he doesn't fold under the pressure. Or they better hope Matheny gets his kick back. If both don't happen, they could be in real trouble, the kind of trouble that could cost them a close game against Illinois, Nebraska, Colorado or Texas A&M.

Kickers have to have strong spines to control the nerves and also to put the team on their backs. Brad Hammerich was that kind of kicker. Two years ago, Hammerich practically beat Oklahoma State by himself in double-overtime.

It's time for Petterson to step up, be reliable, and be the kind of kicker that can put the team on his back. The Tigers' season and bowl game hopes could depend on it.

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