Perhaps the most exciting moment in Cincinnati’s 2014 football season was the 47-yard game-winning field goal by redshirt freshman Andrew Gantz to beat ECU under frigid weather conditions.
“Just being able to share that moment with my parents will probably be one of the best memories of my entire life,” Gantz told me after a spring football practice last week. “You don’t really get many opportunities like that and to have a game-winner my freshman year was a pretty big moment in my life so far. It’s an indescribable feeling.”
Head coach Tommy Tuberville has no trouble describing how he felt at the time.
Cincinnati had a five point lead with 2:03 left in the game when Tuberville elected to go for a first down on fourth-and-2 from the Bearcats’ 33-yard line. An option pitch lost six yards and ECU scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:02 remaining. Fortunately for Cincinnati, Gantz answered with his clutch field goal with 15 seconds on the clock.
“I made an idiotic call to go for it on fourth down,” said Tuberville with a laugh. “And then there was the bad play call by (offensive coordinator) Eddie Gran to run the speed option. Even my son Tucker called me from Auburn and said, ‘Dad, that was the worst decision I’ve ever seen.’ I said, ‘I agree.’ But Andrew dug me out of a hole where I didn’t have to spend about three weeks apologizing.”
The field goal was the longest that Gantz made as a freshman.
“I wasn’t as worried about the kick as I was the snap and the hold in 15 degree weather,” said Tuberville. “And we absolutely blew the protection on the right side. We let a guy come so free that he out-ran the ball and we kicked it over his head. It was meant to be.”
The Centerville H.S. grad won the kicking job last year after a nip-and-tuck training camp battle with senior Tony Miliano and went on to have a great first season, making 16 of 20 field goals and earning second-team All-American Athletic Conference honors.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that I had a great season – I had a good season,” said Gantz. “Honestly, I wasn’t that happy with how I finished. I think I missed four field goals and I’d like to have a few of those back. It’s really a job meant for a perfectionist, so it kind of drives me insane to miss like that.”
“He takes it a little bit too tough on the sideline,” said Tuberville. “I remember after he missed about a 45-yarder at Connecticut, I went over there and he had his head in his hands. I had to kick him in the tail to get him off the bench. You’re not going to make it every time, but it’s good to have somebody who takes it personally and seriously. He works very hard to try to eliminate mistakes.”
“I hate missing a field goal more than I like making one, if that makes any sense,” said Gantz.
“His goal is to have no misses,” said new special teams coordinator Ty Linder. “He’s a kid that really wants to be great. He’s got a strong leg, he’s very consistent, and he puts in the work. I’m excited to work with him.”
One of Andrew’s off-season goals is to increase his range for the upcoming season.
“He’s been killing it in the weight room trying to get bigger and stronger,” said Linder.
“I weighed around 150 pounds my freshman year and last summer I only gained three to five pounds,” Gantz told me. “But right now I’m pushing between 172 and 175. I’ve really put in a lot of work this offseason trying to eat right and get in the weight room to get bigger. When I was a freshman, coach was hesitant to let me kick those long field goals, but I’ve pushed my range out to about 65 yards now. If he sees me hit those, I think we’ll have a better chance of kicking those long field goals during a game.”
Andrew says his longest field goal in practice is 67 yards – or 20 yards longer than the game-winner that saved Tuberville from having to agonize over a costly gamble.
“I don’t think I really bailed him out – I did my job,” said Gantz. “If that play had worked out it would have been a great coaching decision. But I think we’re both pretty happy with how it worked out.”
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