Kicking connection

UW's Taylor Mehlhaff and Temple's Ryan Lux are veterans of Chris Sailer kicking competitions

MADISON — Last summer, when Taylor Mehlhaff found confidence in his kicking swing during a Chris Sailer camp, the one collegiate kicker who out-performed him in each competition was Temple's Ryan Lux.

Lux and the Owls visit Camp Randall Saturday for an 11:10 a.m. kickoff.

"It will be fun to compete against him," said Mehlhaff, the University of Wisconsin's sophomore kicker. "My goal every game is to be the best kicker on the field. So it will be fun. Hopefully get to talk to him for a second before the game or something, wish him good luck."

Mehlhaff, a kickoff specialist for UW last season, won the right to kick field goals and extra points during the Badgers' preseason camp. In his debut in that role against Bowling Green, Mehlhaff tied a school record with eight extra points, but he did not have the opportunity to kick a field goal in UW's 56-42 win.

"It's kind of nice to start off with extra points I guess," Mehlhaff said. "Obviously, I was excited, I wanted to go kick some field goals. But when we're scoring touchdowns that's a lot better than kicking field goals…. I think it was a good opening day for me, just kicking... extra points. Just a good day to get into. Next week, hopefully if I get the chance I'll cash in on some field goals too."

Lux, a senior, is in his second year as Temple's place kicker, after having being named a 2003 junior college All-American at Palomar College in California.

"Lux is an outstanding talent," Sailer said last month.

Lux was 21 of 29 on field goal attempts at Palomar two years ago, but was just 9 of 17 at Temple last year. Like Mehlhaff, he did not have opportunity to attempt a field goal last week, while the Owls were trounced, 63-16, at Arizona State.

Mehlhaff struggled immensely as a field goal kicker in practice last year, but at Sailer's collegiate camp in July, Lux needed overtime to top him in that competition. Both Mehlhaff and Lux made a field goal from each hash from 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 yards out. They then went back and forth from 55 yards away four times before Mehlhaff missed.

"I talked to him one other time this summer," Mehlhaff said. "I gave him a call just to see how things were going. He's a nice kid. It will be fun to go against him."

There may not be many kickoff returns Saturday. Sailer has said that Mehlhaff already has an NFL kickoff leg — last week five of his nine kickoffs went for touchbacks. And Lux edged Mehlhaff in the kickoff competition over the summer as well, matching his distance and averaging about 4.5 seconds hang time, compared to Mehlhaff's 4.3

Against ASU, two of Lux's three kickoffs went for touchbacks, though one was attempted from the 50 after a Sun Devil penalty. The one that was returned? ASU's Nate Kimbrough fielded it at the goal line and picked up 38 yards on the run back.

"He has great hang time on the ball. He's an accurate kicker too. But he gets great hang time," Mehlhaff said. "We were kind of having little battles with our kickoffs, trying to [see] who could hit the better hang time and everything. It was fun. We were going back and forth with each other."

What were their best hang times?

"I think I had like a 4.58, and he had like a 4.62," Mehlhaff said. "So he just out did me by a little bit."

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