Gary Wunderlich/Associated Press

Cool Wunderlich comes through in first game-winning opportunity

Until last Saturday, Ole Miss PK Gary Wunderlich was having a quietly outstanding junior season. When he hit the game-winner at College Station, Texas, against Texas A&M, however, the volume in his life turned up, but the naturally soft-spoken Wunderlich remains calm and collected.

Amidst Shea Mania, it's almost been forgotten that junior Rebel Placekicker Gary Wunderlich stood in front of nearly 105,000 roaring fans and calmly stepped toward the first game-winning field goal of his career on any level - junior high, high school and now college.

It was a 39-yarder with 37 seconds left on the clock and the Rebels trailed No. 8 Texas A&M 28-26, after roaring back from a 21-6 halftime deficit.

Even though he says now that he didn't hit the kick the way he wanted to and was afraid he had missed it left, it found its way through the uprights and the Rebels secured the big victory via an interception by freshman Safety Deontay Anderson that allowed Ole Miss to run off the last few seconds of the game before bedlam broke loose in terms of an opposing team celebrating the win.

Gary Wunderlich/Associated Press

Through it all, Wunderlich, a quiet type to begin with, remained calm.

"With about five minutes to go, I thought it was going to come down to a kick so I was able to get myself mentally ready," said Wunderlich. "I just went through my normal routine of kicking into the net and being off to myself. I had to calm myself down a little bit because I had never been in that situation before and I knew that kick would be the deciding factor between a win or a loss for my team. It was different, but I was calm."

Wunderlich said he was approached by a few people while he was on the sidelines waiting, but he would prefer they did not.

"I don't want anyone talking to me, but I had a couple of teammates say something encouraging," he stated. "It was OK. I just wanted to concentrate and I just wanted a chance inside 50 yards. I didn't care what hash mark or anything else, just inside 50."

The kick was not one of his best, but. . . .

"I just kind of hit it off my toe and when I looked up, it seemed to be going right, but it hooked back in," Gary noted. "I was nervous when I saw it come off my foot, but then I saw it hooking and saw it was going in. I was relieved, to say the least."

Wundedrlich wasn't the only one never in that position, so to speak. Deep Snapper Will Few and Holder Will Gleeson had never been a part of a game-winner either.

"They did a great job and the guys protecting did a great job too. The protection was perfect, the snap was perfect and the hold was perfect. All I had to do was kick it," Gary noted humbly. "Without all those things, it doesn't happen. They deserve as much credit as me. They are sometimes overlooked, but not to me."

Wunderlich wasn't aware of the fact that A&M was out of timeouts and wasn't able to "ice" him, but he says he doesn't think that would have mattered.

"We have worked on that in practice a lot, where I would be lined up to kick and a late timeout is called and I had to wait 30 seconds to kick again, but obviously not in front of 100,000 people. I just treated it like a normal kick, like I said," he added.

Gary Wunderlich

Why Wunderlich feel the game would be coming down to a field goal try?

"After Shea's first TD pass, the sidelines got energized and the defense started playing lights out in the second half," he stated. "You could feel the energy and the enthusiasm and everything coming to a head as we gained more and more momentum. We all just stepped up and it was a great feeling. I just knew it was going to come down to me and I knew I had to be ready."

And ready he was.

Wunderlich and Auburn's Daniel Carlson are the top two placekickers in the SEC and two of the tops in the country.

Gary has hit 19-20 field goals (95%) which is tops in the SEC and third in the nation from a percentage standpoint. Carlson is 20-22 (90.9). Wunderlich's only miss, by the way, was from 55 yards. Wunderlich's long is 49 yards; Carlson's 53 yards. No other kickers in the SEC are above 90%. For a comparison, Alabama PK Adam Griffin has had 20 chances too, but he has only hit 14 (70%).

On extra points Carlson holds the edge, hitting all of his 36 attempts while Wunderlich is 37-39 in PATs.

"He is a great kicker and a great guy. I don't let it bother me that he is getting a more of the spotlight than I am. I am happy for him," said Gary. "I am glad to see him do well."

Obviously, Shea Patterson's coming out party was the headline. Obviously, the maligned defense stepping up was huge.

But when reflecting on this season-changing - hopefully - victory, don't forget the huge part Gary Wuderlich and the field goal unit played.

Imagine the maelstrom Wunderlich was in. A hostile, deafeningly loud stadium.

He and the FG unit came through in crunch time.

There is no celebration without them.


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