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September 4, 2012

Sure-footed Lobo booted nine PATs last week

Justice Adams scored 12 points for the New Mexico Lobos Saturday, and he did it the hard way.

Backup quarterback Cole Gautsche also scored 12 points, but he took the easy route. Gautsche ran for two touchdowns.

Adams used his leg to score his dozen. As a placekicker, it isn't unusual to finish with 12 points. It usually breaks down to three field goals and three PATs. In that case, his team has scored 27, which is a reasonable number. Adams, however, had only one field goal and nine extra points as UNM opened its 2012 season with a 66-21 win over Southern University.

"Anytime you score an extra point, that's good," says Adams, a junior from Albuquerque's La Cueva High School. "It's always better for the team if I kick an extra point instead of settling for a field goal. I love it. Anytime you get out there to kick that many PATs, it's fun."

Adams is listed at the No. 2 spot on the depth chart at kicking off. The Lobos had 11 kickoffs Saturday with Greg Rivera handling the duty 10 times and Adams doing the kicking the last time.

"They are fundamentally the same thing," Adams explains of the two types of kicking. "The follow-through is a little different. The steps are a little different."

This year, a touchback brings the ball out to the 25-yard line in college football. That might have an effect on the kicking game. "It makes a little difference. The hang time is still very important."

Placekickers are something like relief pitchers in baseball. They just hang around the bench or the bullpen until they are needed. And when they come in, it always is in a pressure situation. Many games have been decided by kickers who spend only minutes on the field during a game.

"I have kind of a routine. You have to stay involved in the game. Whenever we cross the 50, I make sure my leg is warm. I want to make certain every kick is exactly the same," Adams explained.

Like every kicker, Adams has faith in his range. "On a good day, I feel comfortable, I can make 55-60 yards. I have hit 63 in practice."

Coleman Hutzler is UNM's special teams coach and he is not a man who leaves things to chance. "There is a big mental piece to kicking. Often, the most relatable sport is golf. Yes, it is like a golf swing. Justus works on things every day."

Hutzler sort of avoids the subject of Adams' range. "That is kind of a game-to-game thing. We've practiced 50-plus kicks. It depends on the situation."

Against Texas on Saturday, the Lobos will find it a little tougher to score TDs. If Adams reaches 12 points, then New Mexico would have had a good night, unless the only scoring is his four field goals.


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