Dialing in From Long Distance

Penn State's Kelly has always been good on short field goals. Now the senior is extending his range.

With little time left on the clock in the first half against Oregon State, there was a decision to be made. Critical? Not so much.

Penn State was leading 35-7 at that point but head coach Joe Paterno had a multitude of choices.

On the sideline, there was doubt. Would Paterno send in Kevin Kelly for a 60-yard field goal attempt? He would — after some persuasion by assistant coach Mike McQueary. Kelly trotted out. The snap and hold were perfect, but his kick fell just a yard or two short.

“I hope I get out there again, but it was pretty cool,” Kelly said.

The next week, against Syracuse, Kelly hit a 52-yard field goal, one yard short of tying his career long. In his senior season, Kelly looks like a markedly better kicker than in years past. His goals coming into this season were simple.

“Just get more accurate. I think I had the leg strength that I needed. Last year I got a lot of practice inside 40 yards and I just want to continue that accuracy,” Kelly said. “[Then] take it outside 40 yards, because that's where the team needed me last year and the past couple of years. So when I get into that situation this year, I'll be able to make it.”

Two years ago, Kelly was bothered by a back injury. The pain was so serious that Penn State had to bring in a walk-on kicker, Joe Hughes, during the season to handle kickoffs.

This season, Kelly is healthy and he attributes his health to one thing.

“The biggest factor for me is the conditioning,” Kelly said.

A four-year starter, Kelly is already Penn State's career scoring leader (333 points) and leader in field goals made (61). He needs only 12 more three-pointers to break the Big Ten career record for field goals.

“That's pretty cool, but I mean it isn't really a huge, huge deal,” Kelly said. “I just want to go out and make all the kicks I can make. Every opportunity I'm going to get, I'm going to try and make, and I've been fortunate enough to have enough opportunities here to hopefully get to that level.”


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