Injury Creates Kicking Conundrum

Ohio State's kicking game is back in the spotlight following the season-ending injury suffered by senior Aaron Pettrey. With the loss of the strong-legged Pettrey, junior walk-on Devin Barclay or redshirt freshman Ben Buchanan will be called upon to kick during OSU's stretch run.

What has primarily been a strength for the 2009 Ohio State football team turned into a question mark in the blink of an eye last week. Senior Aaron Pettrey's season-ending injury created an opening at placekicker that could prove to be crucial as the Buckeyes end the season with three major tests against Penn State, Iowa and archrival Michigan.

Pettrey was in the midst of a solid final season at Ohio State before his collegiate career came to an end when he was hit in his right kicking knee while running downfield on a second-quarter kickoff. The Raceland, Ky., native had to be helped off the field and was later diagnosed with a torn medial collateral ligament. Pettrey was scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday.

The injury frustrated many Ohio State fans, who saw a New Mexico State player block Pettrey below the waist during the kickoff return. OSU head coach Jim Tressel said the Aggie was contrite after the game.

"The young man that actually was involved in the play where Aaron got injured sought me out and said, "Please tell your kicker I apologize. I didn't mean to block him below the waist. I just was trying to go make a play,' " Tressel said. "And you could just tell the young man was distraught. … That just sometimes that happens in football and there was no intent involved."

Now the Buckeyes will have to likely rely on walk-on junior Devin Barclay, who attempted three fields goals against New Mexico State after Pettrey's injury. The former professional soccer player made one of three field-goal attempts against the Aggies, making a 29-yarder between misses from 47 and 36 yards. He also handled five kickoffs and made three extra points.

"It was amazing," Barclay said about his emotions when he entered the game. "I can't really describe it except for the fact that I went from spectator from active participant and your adrenaline gets pumping and you have to be ready to go. You have to step up when that happens."

Pressure is nothing new for Barclay. The 26-year-old was a member of the U.S. Under-18, U-20 and U-23 national soccer teams and turned pro at the age of 17. Unfortunately for the Annapolis, Md., native, injuries helped put him out of the sport at 22. His final soccer stop was with the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, and his time in the capital city led him to his latest athletic endeavor.

Barclay was introduced to placekicking by Jim Schmidtke, who worked as a chaplain for the Crew through Athletics in Action. Barlcay also got some tutelage from former Ohio State kickers Vlade Janakievski and Dan Stultz and eventually walked on to the football team in 2008.

"I worked with (Stultz and Janakievski) for six months and then sent in a tape," Barclay said. "That was pretty much it."

While many players would have been overwhelmed by coming into the game in the way Barclay did, it was not big deal to the sports and leisure services major.

"I've obviously been in another sport and have played at a competitive level for almost 10 years now," Barclay said. "It's definitely helped me get ready for it, get ready for this experience."

Ohio State will also have another placekicking option this weekend in Ben Buchanan. The redshirt freshman did not dress for the New Mexico State game because of illness, but Tressel said Buchanan should be available this weekend at Penn State. Buchanan has been the backup to senior punter Jon Thoma this season but has worked as a placekicker as well.

"Between Devin and Ben, we've got to step up," Tressel said. "I'm not sure any of us expected this, but that's part of football."

As for Pettrey, Tressel hopes the senior will be able to strap on his Ohio State football helmet one more time. Tressel said Pettrey has been invited to participate in the fourth-annual Texas vs. The Nation postseason all-star game.

"Our goal is to have him ready for that," Tressel said.

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