The superstitious believe bad things come in threes. If that’s the case, BYU kicker Jake Oldroyd should be in for a big night Saturday against Wyoming.
For the first time in a career that began by booting the game-winner against Arizona in 2016, Oldroyd has missed three consecutive field goal attempts, and while BYU reopened the kicking competition this week, this is not the time to give him the hook — but it’s getting close.
Oldroyd hit four straight field goals to start the season, but two misses late in the game against Baylor and another miss last week at Oregon have him kicking on thin ice.
Head coach Kalani Sitake has no choice but to give backup kicker Justen Smith additional reps in practice. Smith filled in admirably last season when Oldroyd was out for four games with lower-back issues. The redshirt freshman from Sandy connected on 14 of 15 point-after-tries and two of three field goal attempts — with his longest of 40 yards coming against Arizona.
Oldroyd is a redshirt junior with a history of consistency. Last season he made 9 of 13 field goals, including 6 of 7 between 30 and 39 yards. In 2020, he was a perfect 13 of 13 and hit all three of his attempts of 50 yards or more. Oldroyd was runner-up for the Lou Groza Award honoring the nation’s top collegiate kickers.
Even in 2019, his first year back after a two-year church mission, Oldroyd connected on 16 of 24, including 2 of 2 from 50 yards or more. The eight misses are concerning, but he never missed three in a row, until now.
So what is BYU to do? Sit him down and let him think things over or put him into the game on Saturday night and let him rip one through the uprights? Sometimes the more a person thinks about his problems, the worse they get.
Wyoming and Utah State are not Baylor and Oregon. The margin for error will be greater over the next two games. Oldroyd has earned the chance to rediscover himself. However, with Notre Dame and Arkansas on the horizon, he must fix things quickly or surrender the job.
Football is a game of results. Coaches are hired and fired based on wins and losses. Oldroyd delivered Sitake’s first victory at BYU in 2016 with a 33-yard field goal with 4 seconds to play to beat Arizona, 18-16.
To say he has been around, is an understatement. Oldroyd has kicked for quarterbacks Taysom Hill, Tanner Mangum, Zach Wilson, Baylor Romney and Jaren Hall. He’s made 45 field goals and is a perfect 5 of 5 beyond 50 yards.
This funk he is in is especially strange considering all three misses have been 39 yards or less. Against Baylor he pulled both left kicks. Saturday at Oregon, he missed badly to the right. In all three kicks, the snap and the hold were perfect.
Oldroyd is physically fine. This is an issue that is upstairs and that makes it tricky to cure. If he gets the hook this week, he may not make it back onto the field. Kickers are hard to read. However, with a little more time and a few more attempts, perhaps the demons that haunt him will dissipate.
After all, the most important kick for a kicker is his next one. They play a position where judgment is swift and not always nice, but they also hold down a job that can determine the outcome by their foot, and their foot alone.
Fortunately for BYU, Oldroyd’s misses didn’t cost them the win against Baylor and his miss on Saturday, while it stifled the team’s momentum in the second quarter, it played no factor in the fact that the Cougars couldn’t stop the Ducks from scoring on their first six possessions.
So, No. 19 BYU (2-1) kicks off against Wyoming (3-1) Saturday night (8:15 pm MDT, ESPN2) with some drama at the kicking position. Oldroyd’s reception by the fans will be interesting when he trots onto the field with the field goal unit. Do fans boo BYU’s failure to switch him out for Smith, or do they bolster him up a few more times while he works through the kinks in his kicks?
Sitake is too wise not to give him every chance to rebound, but he also knows he can’t wait much longer. Oldroyd has two games to get things right. He has earned the extra time. However, when the Cougars go to Las Vegas to face Notre Dame on Oct. 8, the time for gambling on field goals will be over.
It’s up to Oldroyd to keep his job and if bad news really does come in threes, like his three missed field goals, he is destined for a bounce-back Saturday night.
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.